To address food insecurity in the U.S. Virgin Islands and provide more equitable resources to remote locations, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is increasing the reimbursement rates that child nutrition program operators receive for meals served in the U.S. Virgin Islands from 17% to 30% above the contiguous United States (CONUS) rates. The increased rates will also apply to Hawaii, Puerto Rico and Guam, as those locations also face unique hurdles associated with obtaining ingredients and getting needed supplies in their island economies.
Healthy school meals are a top priority for USDA and Food and Nutrition Service is committed to providing school meal operators on these islands with improved funding to operate these critical nutrition programs. In recognition of the higher food costs in these locations, the increased reimbursement rates will begin on July 1 to help ensure U.S. Virgin Islands’ schools have access to the resources needed to continue serving children nutritious, high-quality food, while also building a stronger, more competitive and more resilient local food system.
Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) child nutrition programs have a wide-reaching impact on the health and well-being of children,” said FNS Northeast Regional Administrator Lizbeth Silbermann. “This boost in reimbursement rates helps program operators in the U.S. Virgin Islands address ongoing challenges associated with the costs of preparing and serving healthy and nutritious meals, and supports building a more resilient local food system.”
The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to financially supporting school meals and ensuring the nation’s children are nutritionally secure. This increase in rates is separate from the normal annual adjustment for reimbursement rates for child nutrition programs. Section 12(f) of the National School Lunch Act allows USDA to adjust reimbursement rates in outlying areas to reflect differences between the cost of providing meals and supplements in those areas and the costs of providing meals and supplements in all other states.
The increased rates will apply until the next School Nutrition and Meal Cost Study is complete. Data collection for this comprehensive national study of the cost to produce a school meal is planned to begin in school year 2024-2025.
USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service works to end hunger and improve food and nutrition security through a suite of more than 15 nutrition assistance programs, such as the school breakfast and lunch programs, WIC and SNAP. Together, these programs serve 1 in 4 Americans over the course of a year, promoting consistent and equitable access to healthy, safe, and affordable food essential to optimal health and well-being. FNS also provides science-based nutrition recommendations through the co-development of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. To learn more about FNS, visit https://www.fns.usda.gov/ and follow @USDANutrition.