Hartzler Amendment to Enable Lower School Lunch Prices, Restore Local Control, Passes the House
WASHINGTON – Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler’s school lunch affordability amendment passed the House late Wednesday. The amendment would restore all control over local lunch prices to the school districts and school boards. Current federal rules require schools to use a formula to determine school lunch prices, but that formula is a one-size fits all approach that is forcing some schools to charge more than they need – or even want – for paid lunches. Hartzler’s amendment corrects this oversight and empowers local school administrators to lower lunch prices as they see fit.
“This amendment protects the student lunch program while allowing school lunch decisions to be made at the local level so parents, teachers and administrators can work together to decide what is best for their children,” said Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler (R-MO). “If schools need to raise prices to cover their cost, that won’t change, but if a school wants to lower their prices, the federal government shouldn’t stop them.”
“Local schools deserve permanent relief and local control, not more mandates and bureaucratically approved waivers,” Hartzler added.
The current formula is intended to ensure that the paid lunch prices can fund the lunch program, but in many cases schools can fund the program without raising lunch prices. The School Lunch Affordability Act amends the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act by repealing the paid lunch equity requirements which eliminates the formula that school food authorities are required to use to establish the price for a paid lunch.
“Common-sense changes need to be made to the National School Lunch Program to ensure all children have access to nutritious, affordable meals without putting unnecessary burdens on our local school districts,” Hartzler said.
According to a 2014 study from the Office of Government Accountability, participation in the school lunch program has declined by 1.2 million from 2010-2013. The study reports that price increases likely contributed to the decline in the number of students buying full-price lunches. The biggest decline in participation came from those participating in the full-price lunches (1.6 million) while those eating free lunches were on the rise.
The reimbursement rates for paid, free and reduced lunches all stay the same so requiring the School Food Authority to raise prices does not actually save the federal government any money. It simply adds another layer of paperwork that the School Food Authority must adhere to and the higher prices drive our children out of the paid lunch system.