Hawaii congressional delegation calls for better school lunch reimbursements
Claiming that the federal government has seriously outdated cost estimates that are negatively impacting Hawaiian schools and students, the Hawaiian congressional delegation called on the United States Department of Agriculture to increase its meal reimbursement rate for Hawaiʻi.
U.S. Hawai’i Sens Brian Schatz and Mazie K. Hirono, along with U.S. Representatives Ed Case and Kai Kahele, on Friday asked the USDA to provide Hawai’i with a temporary increase in the school lunch reimbursement rate. until the agency completes the School Nutrition and Meal Cost Study-II and adjusts school lunch reimbursements, according to a news release.
“We ask that you exercise your authority to grant a temporary increase in the national average payment rate in Hawai’i to a rate at least equal to the rate in Alaska – which receives a higher school lunch reimbursement than other regions. outlying areas – until the study is complete and updated adjustments for school lunch reimbursements for these areas are then made,” the delegation wrote to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack in a request. temporary increase.
The group pointed to the impacts of the agency relying on outdated data to determine reimbursement rates.
“While we support the study’s goal of providing a full and accurate accounting of the true costs associated with the production and provision of school meals, we are concerned that the current school meal reimbursement rate for Hawai’i may not not reflect these costs, and that the state and its students are currently being negatively impacted,” the letter states.
USDA calculations have not been updated since 1979 despite the substantial increase in food and labor costs in Hawai’i.
Based on the same methodology used in the original analysis and taking into account recent cost data, school lunch reimbursement for Hawai’i is expected to be more than 60% higher than the national average payment, representing a increase of at least 43% over the rate Hawai’i currently receives, the letter says.
The letter said the USDA study would not produce results until at least 2026, and it is unclear when the updated school reimbursements would be finalized.
“As a result, Hawai’i will continue to receive outdated and inferior school lunch reimbursements for several years, which means tens of millions of dollars in lost federal funding for school lunch programs in the state,” the authorities wrote. Hawaiian leaders.