schools raise lunch concerns
The National School Lunch and Breakfast Program could soon be a casualty of the partial shutdown, leaving millions of children without an important source of nutrition, a group representing school nutrition workers warned Congress on Friday.
The group, the School Nutrition Association, said in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid that the protracted government shutdown left many school administrators uncertain of their ability to sustain the meal programs after Nov. 1, when schools begin to file federal reimbursement claims for meals served through October. The Agriculture Department said it could not guarantee that money for the school meal program would be available after that.
The association said school meal programs depended on the timely delivery of their federal reimbursements to cover staff wages; reimburse school districts for utilities and custodial services; and pay local businesses, farmers and distributors who provide food, supplies and equipment. “School meal programs depend on federal reimbursements to operate,” said Leah Schmidt, president of the association. “If the federal government shutdown persists, millions of students who rely on school meals as a primary source of nutrition will suffer.”
The school meals program serves about 31 million children daily, the Agriculture Department said. Nutrition experts say the federal school meals program is the only meal for many students.
The government shutdown comes as schools were beginning to introduce changes to their meal programs, increasing fruit and vegetables and cutting back on fats and on beverages high in sugar.
NTSB inquiries have been delayed
U.S. crash investigators have been unable to probe 13 accidents since the government partly shut down, the head of the National Transportation Safety Board said.
They include a fatal bus collision in Tennessee, a crude oil pipeline spill in North Dakota and the crash of a U.S. drug interdiction plane in Colombia that killed four people, NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman told a Senate hearing Friday. About 1,500 investigations in all have been put on hold, Hersman said.
“I urge you to take action to permit the NTSB to resume its critical safety mission,” Hersman said in written testimony for the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.
The accident investigation agency, which makes safety recommendations to regulators, has sent all but 22 of its 405 employees home since U.S. lawmakers failed to approve spending for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1.
The NTSB has also had to postpone two hearings, including one planned for next month into the crash of an Asiana Airlines plane attempting to land July 6 in San Francisco, Hersman said.