Las Vegas Sun

October 23, 2017

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Money for subsidized school meals could vanish amid shutdown


Mona Shields Payne

Kindergartner Jonathan Mondragon eats breakfast in the lunchroom at Cambeiro Elementary School in Las Vegas. Should Congress and the White House fail to reach an accord before year’s end on the federal debt, automatic spending cuts could threaten payments to the Clark County School District for participation in the federal program that offers free and reduced-priced meals for low-income students.

Summer Food Service Program

Dallas Spears, 5, eats his lunch during the Summer Food Service Program at the Heinrich YMCA in Las Vegas on Wednesday, June 19, 2013. The Summer Food Service Program is a federal nutrition program designed to feed children free, nutritious meals and snacks during the months of June, July, and August when school is out. Launch slideshow »

If the government shutdown lasts more than a month, the Clark County School District will have to find another source of funding to feed thousands of poor children in the Las Vegas Valley, officials warned Wednesday.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which administers the federal free and reduced-price lunch program, informed the School District on Wednesday that reimbursements for federally subsidized breakfast and lunches will be delayed because of the partial federal government shutdown.

Clark County, the nation’s fifth-largest school system, receives about $9 million a month in reimbursements for feeding 186,410 children from low-income families. These children represent about 60 percent of some 315,000 students in the district.

The School District has about a month’s worth of money in its food service fund, so there is no immediate threat to the district’s ability to provide school meals to children. However, if that money runs out, the district may have to divert money out of the general fund — used to fund school operations and teacher salaries — to pay for school meals.

“Funding will be in jeopardy if the shutdown continues in the long term,” Deputy Superintendent Kim Wooden said. “Many of the students in this (free and reduced-price lunch) program do not eat if they don’t eat at school. This program is critical for their personal and academic growth and their success in the classroom.”

Other federally funded programs in the district, such as those that serve historically disadvantaged children, will not be affected immediately, because the government has already allocated that money, Wooden said.

The longest federal government shutdown occurred in 1995. It lasted 21 days.

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