Millions of Dollars for School Meals Untapped

Abby Cosgrove, Staff Writer

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   In 2015 and 2016, $145 million dollars went untapped for school meals in San Diego, because the schools used their own budgets instead of a government-funded program.

   An article on the Food Management website says, “San Diego County schools are leaving $145 million on the table for school meal programs” (

   “If a district is not participating in the National School Lunch Program, they cannot receive these reimbursements,” said Business Manager Jennifer Marrone of the San Diego Unified Operations Division of Nutrition Services.  According to Marrone, meals are highly regulated by the Healthy Hungry Free Kids Act, which makes it a burden for the districts to follow all the regulations.

   “For community nonprofits that offer after-school programs, the process of claiming federal meal reimbursements can be intimidating” (

    In an interview with KPBS, Executive Director of Hunger Coalition Anahid Brakke said that a lot of after-school programs that they’ve talked to are currently purchasing snacks through their own general budget. They’re raising money for that (

   According to the Public Broadcasting Station, San Diego County children who are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches are also able to get breakfast, after-school suppers, and summer lunches ( Marrone explained that adding nutrition breaks, multiple lunches, and recess before lunch would be one way to solve the problem of untapped money.

   According to KPBS, if schools don’t do anything about this, more money could go untapped. So, the governor passed Senate Bill 138 last month which will make the number of kids eligible for free food expand (

   Marrone said, “I don’t see a glaring problem, but it would be great if more [district] students participated with our Food and Nutrition Service meals.”

   Some of the money not being used could even go towards food service rather than food, for all the labor associated to provide meals. This means the district is spending millions more that they need to every year on both food and the services to make and distribute the food, according to KPBS (

  According to a reporter for the Food Management website, Brakke set up a meeting between schools and nonprofits to try to find ways to use the money. One way is that they are trying is to increase the number of eligible students receiving subsidized breakfast from 40 percent to 50 percent (

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