Government shutdown halts funding for federal school lunch program

Most schools have funding to last through October


SAN ANTONIO – The Federal School Lunch Program could be affected if the government shutdown continues through October.

School districts are reimbursed on a monthly basis to help pay for free and reduced meals for students, but analysts suggest that funding could run out by the end of the month.

"Are we going to receive reimbursement checks from the government? Do they consider feeding children essential to actually pay for?" said Somerset ISD Public Information Officer Maury Vasquez.

Vasquez said 82 percent of Somerset ISD students receive free or reduced meals.

"The last reimbursement fund check we received from September, that's going to last us to the end of the month. If for some reason if this government shutdown continues form Nov. 1 on, that's when the unknown begins," he said.

While some larger districts have carry-over funds at their disposal, smaller districts will likely have to dip into reserve funds.

"If this shutdown extends into the third week of October, we're going to have to come up with a plan to understand where the money is coming from," Vasquez said. "Is it coming from leftover money from the state? Is it coming from leftover USDA funds from fiscal year 2013, or is it coming from our general reserve?"

State officials with the Women, Infant, and Children's Program (WIC) are also facing an uncertain future in terms of funding.

"There's national news saying that in other states WIC is closing and that's prompting a lot of people to call us and find out if they can still use their card," said Carol Schliesinger with Metro Health.

The state will fund WIC programs for the next 30 days, but Schliesinger said she does not know what happens once that money runs out.

"If we had to close our doors, it would leave these moms without these benefits," she said.

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