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Following Calls From Schatz To Boost Funding, USDA Agrees To Increase School Meal Reimbursements For Hawai‘i, Delivering At Least $8 Million A Year In New Federal Money To Feed More Students Across The State

Increased Funding Comes After Schatz Passed Provision Directing USDA To Adjust Reimbursement For Hawai‘i School Meals

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced that it will increase Hawai‘i’s reimbursement rate for federal child nutrition programs by an additional 13 percent beginning this summer. The new rate will apply to all child meal programs in the state, including the National School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program, the Child and Adult Care Food Program, and the Summer Food Service Program, and it is expected to bring in an additional estimated $8 million a year to Hawai‘i.

The adjustment follows efforts led by U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) to boost the federal reimbursement rate to accurately reflect the current cost of providing school meals in Hawai‘i and the territories. In May 2022, Schatz led Hawai‘i’s congressional delegation in a letter urging the USDA to make a temporary adjustment as it completes its years-long study to update its severely outdated cost estimates. And in December, Schatz successfully passed a provision in the government funding law that directed the agency to make the increase.

“This increase is a big win for kids across Hawai‘i and for our state. The school meals program feeds around 100,000 students every week, and we deserve our fair share of federal funding to support it,” said Senator Schatz. “I thank the USDA for working with us to boost Hawai‘i’s funding so that students who rely on the program can continue to get the healthy meals they need to succeed in school.”

“We’re pleased to make these interim rate adjustments for Hawai‘i and the territories while we strive over the longer term to capture more local cost data to inform future reimbursement rates. The input from Senator Schatz’ office and other offices in the Hawai‘i Congressional Delegation—as well as from the Hawai‘i State Department of Education and local stakeholders—has been especially helpful to this effort. We hope these increased reimbursement rates help Hawai‘i grow a more resilient local food system,” said USDA Food and Nutrition Service Administrator Cindy Long.

The increased reimbursement rate—30 percent above the continental U.S.—will be effective beginning July 1, 2023. Beyond Hawai‘i, the USDA announced it would also increase child nutrition program reimbursement rates for Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands—an increase that totals over $30 million a year for all four jurisdictions.