In a setback for those who run school cafeteria programs across Long Island and the nation, the Child Nutrition Act did not get reauthorized in time for Thursday's expiration date, leaving $4.5 billion in new funding for meals in jeopardy.
Congress needed to approve the legislation, but the House of Representatives adjourned Wednesday night before considering it. There is hope that when members return after the election in November that they will revisit the bill, said Melissa Salmanowitz, spokeswoman for House Education and Labor Committee chairman, Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.). The Senate approved the bill last month.
Meanwhile, the current funding levels continue until the end of the year, Salmanowitz said.
The $4.5 billion, for districts nationwide, would have amounted to a federal reimbursement of six cents more per meal. Local food service directors were looking forward to the extra pennies because it would have been the first time since 1973 that schools got an increase in federal reimbursements beyond an annual inflation adjustment.
"You get your hopes up and then you get disappointed," said Adrianne Goldenbaum, who runs West Babylon's school cafeterias.
Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-Mineola) said she's confident the legislation will be worked out when members return. She said it was stalled due to concerns about how cuts in the federal food stamp program will pay for part of the bill.
Goldenbaum and other local directors say they are used to food programs getting shortchanged as they continue to heed calls for healthier fare while running cafeterias that are expected to operate with little or no financial help from districts' budgets.
Michael DeVito, chief operating officer for the Long Beach district, agreed that schools are being asked to provide healthy meals with inadequate funding.
This is the second year in a row that the Child Nutrition Act has been extended rather than reauthorized, said Nancy Huehnergarth, director of the New York State Healthy Eating and Physical Activity Alliance. Reauthorization occurs every five years and gives Congress a chance to make changes to the program.
She said she's also disappointed because the bill contains a provision that would have set nutritional standards for food sold separately from the regular meal, such as items. in snack lines.