The U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved a 17% increase for the Guam Department of Education’s school lunch and breakfast programs.
The effective date of the increase has been back-dated to July 1 of this year.
“Every mother knows a hungry child can’t learn,” said Governor Lou Leon Guerrero in a news release this morning. “Without the reimbursements we receive from the USDA, that would be the reality for too many of Guam’s children.”
In its decision, the Department of Agriculture noted that higher food costs can be seen in the other food programs benefiting Guam. The USDA noted that the Guam Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) allotment levels are about 50% higher than the continental US, and almost 90% higher than the average food package cost for the Women, Infants, Children (WIC) program.
The governor credits former Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo who joined with Virgin Islands Representative Stacey Plaskett in July of last year to write a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue.
They asked him to reconsider the reimbursement rates for Guam and the Virgin Islands under the in-school meal and child nutrition programs.
At that time, Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico received more favorable reimbursement rates while Guam and the Virgin Islands were getting reimbursed at the same rate as the states in the continental U.S. where food costs are lower.
Bordallo, who now serves as the Governor’s Washington liaison, is quoted in the release as saying that the increased reimbursement rate “is reflective of the higher cost of living in the territories. School meals in areas outside of the continental U.S. “are more expensive to deliver,” she said.
And Guam DOE Superintendent Jon Fernandez is quoted as saying “we have committed to providing no-cost meals to all students through the Community Eligibility Provision, and this change will ensure that we have the resources to continue these efforts in the years to come.”