Department of Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut answers questions from the Executive Council Wednesday, March 23, 2022. (Ethan DeWitt | New Hampshire Bulletin)
New Hampshire schools are set to receive $2.8 million in federal assistance to address supply chain issues affecting school lunches, after the Executive Council voted to approve the money Wednesday.
The funding, provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is meant to help schools weather disruptions to food supplies that have persisted throughout 2021 and 2022. Facing transportation blockages and shortages of staple ingredients like dairy and meat, school nutrition directors in New Hampshire have been forced to stock up on freezable items like hamburgers and hot dogs. Many have learned to expect missing items on weekly delivery trucks; others have braced for long delays.
Department of Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut said the funding will allow schools to recoup expenses for unforeseen problems.
“That could range from you know: ‘We’re not able to order as far in advance and so we have to expedite stuff in, so maybe it’s costing us a little bit more,’” Edelblut said in an interview after the Executive Council vote. “It could be a particular vendor doesn’t have the type of lettuce or vegetable that we normally use and we have to go to another vendor and it’s more expensive. We all know that there’s been inflation in the process as well. So it’s just to help the schools kind of cope with all of that.”
Edelblut said the issues had “progressively gotten more difficult through the year.”
Under the state’s program, each school district will receive $5,000 in base funding, Edelblut said. The rest of the money will be distributed through the National School Lunch Program, a program targeted to students receiving free or reduced lunches, and the national School Breakfast Program. It will be distributed based on the level of participation in each school district in those programs, Edelblut said.
The assistance has taken time to work its way through the legislative approval process; the USDA first announced its $1.5 billion program in September. Edelblut said he expected the money to flow to schools quickly.
“Some schools will probably burn through that relatively quickly and other schools may take longer,” he said.
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