What's on school menus this fall? Trade mitigation

A teacher lines up students for school-prepared lunches at Madison Crossing Elementary School in Canton, Mississippi, last week. The Mississippi Education Department ordered two truckloads of “trade mitigation” pulled pork and four loads of kidney beans for use in their cafeterias.

NEW YORK (AP) — School lunch menus already have Meatless Mondays and Taco Tuesdays. Now some may get Trade Mitigation Thursdays.

This fall, some U.S. school cafeterias are expecting extra shipments of free food because of President Donald Trump’s trade disputes. The products are coming from the Department of Agriculture, which is giving away the $1.2 billion in foods it’s buying to help farmers hurt by trade negotiations.

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. 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 the groups that get government foods.

According to the USDA, most food purchased as part of trade-relief efforts is going to programs that help the needy, with schools getting only a small slice. But cafeteria officials who operate on tight budgets say they have always welcomed the “bonus” foods.

“The room lights up when everyone knows we’ve got new items that are coming,” said Scott Clements, director of child nutrition at the Mississippi Education Department, which ordered two truckloads of trade mitigation pulled pork and four loads of kidney beans.

Still, putting bonus foods to use can be tricky for schools. In Alaska, officials ordered only a half truck of free kidney beans.

“There’s only so many ways you can use them,” said Sue Lampert, a school food official for the state.

© 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Commenting is limited to Omaha World-Herald subscribers. To sign up, click here.

If you're already a subscriber and need to activate your access or log in, click here.

Load comments

You must be a full digital subscriber to read this article You must be a digital subscriber to view this article.