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New Hampshire to get $4.2 million to mitigate school lunch supply issues

Closeup of vegetables being served in school lunch line.
New Hampshire Bulletin/SDI Productions/Getty Images/iStockphoto
Closeup of vegetables being served in school lunch line.

New Hampshire schools will receive $4.2 million in federal assistance to address the supply chain problems they’ve had with school meal programs, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced.

In a recent press conference, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the USDA had finalized state allocations for the new assistance program, which will distribute $1.5 billion in aid nationwide.

Of New Hampshire’s allotment, $2.8 million will go toward Supply Chain Assistance Funds that will allow schools to directly purchase minimally processed or unprocessed foods, including meat, dairy, and fruit.

About $589,000 will go to a Local Food for Schools Cooperative Agreement Program for local food sources. And $804,000 will be used for food directly purchased by the USDA and then shared with Granite State schools.

New Hampshire schools have struggled with supply problems around school lunches for months, district officials say. Trucks arriving with food orders often carry substitutions of ingredients – or are missing the ingredients entirely.

Food service directors have become used to ordering shipments weeks in advance to account for delays, and stockpiling staples like hamburgers and hot dogs in the school’s freezers in case of emergency.

In 2020, the USDA began offering waivers that exempted schools from certain federal nutritional requirements, given the difficulty finding qualifying ingredients such as whole wheat bread. The $1.5 billion is meant to provide direct financial support to help schools handle the slower deliveries.

“The food and funds USDA is distributing will help ensure schools have the resources they need to continue to serve our nation’s school children quality food they can depend on, all while building a stronger, fairer, and more competitive food system,” Vilsack said in a statement.

It was unclear exactly when the money will arrive, and how it would be distributed to the state’s schools. A spokeswoman for the New Hampshire Department of Education said the department was aware of the funding but awaiting further details.

New Hampshire Bulletin is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. New Hampshire Bulletin maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Dana Wormald for questions: Follow New Hampshire Bulletin on Facebook and Twitter.

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