Trade War Brings Bonus Food to Schools

USDA is buying, giving away food to help farmers
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 12, 2019 1:45 AM CDT

(Newser) – School lunch menus already have Meatless Mondays and Taco Tuesdays. Now some may get Trade Mitigation Thursdays. This fall, some US school cafeterias are expecting shipments of free food, one little-known consequence of President Trump's trade disputes. The products are coming from the Department of Agriculture, which is giving away the $1.2 billion in food it's buying to help farmers hurt by trade negotiations, the AP reports. A Maryland district is awaiting a truckload of canned kidney beans—one of several "trade mitigation" items schools were offered. "We make our own chili soup, so we knew we had a use for that," said Barbara Harral, a nutrition official for Montgomery County Public Schools. All told, she said the district is getting $70,000 worth of free products for the fall, including apples and oranges.

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Harral, who has been with the district for 22 years, doesn't recall the USDA offering trade mitigation foods before. The USDA has long purchased and distributed agricultural products to help farmers, who can face swings in supply and demand in any given year. But the agency is buying even more as a result of Trump's trade fight, which prompted other countries to take retaliatory actions that curb imports of American farm products. That's resulting in an unusual bounty for groups that get government food. According to the USDA, most food purchased as part of trade-relief efforts is going to programs that help the needy. The USDA says schools are only getting a tiny slice of trade mitigation foods, accounting for a majority of the $27 million of products ordered for child nutrition programs. But at a national convention for school cafeteria employees this summer, agency officials noted the program is expected to continue with additional items.

(Read more school lunch stories.)

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