Shutdown could affect school lunches for some students

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ROCKINGHAM COUNTY, Va.(WHSV) — As of Friday, the partial government shutdown reached day 21, and if it continues, it could potentially affect students who receive free or reduced meals at school.

One branch of the United States Department of Agriculture helps students in need receive free and reduce meals throughout the school year, but due to the partial government shutdown, that service could be affected.

Schools usually pay for these meals upfront and are later reimbursed by the USDA a month later.

Before the end of December, the USDA told schools they would have enough funds to operate this program until March.

Gerald Lehman, director of food and nutrition service for Rockingham County Public Schools, said their budget prepares them for a situation like this

"We do have to operate with a fund balance that allows us to both deals with emergencies," Lehman said, "and to also carry us in times when revenue stream or money coming in is, for whatever reason, a little bit slower."

Rockingham County Public Schools said that more than 40 percent of its students are eligible for free or reduced meals.

"If we got into a very long extended period, it's a little bit hard to say what will happen," Lehman said, "but obviously, we're going to continue to serve children."

Lehman said they are still receiving commodities like meat and veggies from the USDA.