Tester Secures $5.1 Million to Address School Supply Chain Disruption, Food Shortages in Montana

Senator pushed USDA to address pandemic related food shortages: “No Montana student should ever go hungry”

Following an aggressive push, U.S. Senator Jon Tester today announced he secured $5,159,810 in U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) funding for the state of Montana and local school districts to ease supply chain disruptions and foot shortages brought on by the pandemic by providing flexibility to allow locally sourced food to be acquired for students.

“No Montana student should ever go hungry, period,” said Tester. “Unfortunately, the pandemic has disrupted our food supply chain and caused food shortages in our schools, and local communities need the flexibility and the tools to fix them. I’m proud to have secured these funds that will both strengthen our supply chain by locally sourcing food from Montana’s world class farms and ranches and support our students by providing healthy, meals for Montana students.”

The funding secured by Tester includes $3,639,907 in Supply Chain Assistance funds, $791,922 in USDA Foods Purchases, and $727,981 in Local Food For Schools Cooperative Agreements. Tester secured this funding through the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021.

This funding comes after Tester and a bicameral group of colleagues wrote to USDA requesting the agency work to address the food shortage and supply chain disruption schools are facing by allowing schools to purchase locally. Tester’s letter can be found HERE.

$3,639,907 in Supply Chain Assistance Funds

Supply Chain Assistance funds deliver direct relief from ongoing supply chain issues and improve the quality and consistency of school meals for children in communities experiencing disruptions, making it easier for schools to operate successful meal programs. Public, Tribal, charter schools, as well as nonprofit private schools and residential child care institutions are eligible.

Supply Chain Assistance funding can be used by school districts to purchase unprocessed and minimally processed domestic food such as fresh fruit, milk, cheese, frozen vegetables and ground meat. Each state will allocate the funds to schools based on student enrollment, with a minimum amount per district to ensure that small schools aren’t left behind.

To strengthen local food supply chains, states have the option of using up to 10% of the Supply Chain Assistance funds to make bulk purchases of local food and then distributing these foods to schools for use in their meal programs. States also have the option of targeting the funds to areas of highest need.

$791,922 in USDA Foods Purchases

Tester secured $791,922 in purchases 100% domestically grown and produced food products, known as USDA Foods, for Montana to distribute to schools to offset the impact of disruptions to their normal supply chains. USDA has identified a large list of available products. Montana will be able to order these additional foods within the coming weeks, with deliveries to occur as soon as possible.

$727,981 in Local Food For Schools Cooperative Agreements

Through the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS)’s new Local Food for Schools Cooperative Agreement Program, Tester secured $727,981 for food assistance purchases of domestic local foods for distribution to schools. This program will strengthen the food system for schools by helping to build a fair, competitive, and resilient local food chain and expanding local and regional markets with an emphasis on purchasing from historically underserved producers and processors.