WASHINGTON, District of Columbia- Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) announced Thursday the introduction of the School Lunch Affordability Act (HR 3307), legislation that would return all control over local lunch prices to the school districts and school boards.

Hartzler says as students return to school this month, this legislation provides freedom to school administrators and enables lower prices for students. Current federal rules require schools to use a formula to determine school lunch prices, but that formula is a one-size fits all approach that is forcing some schools to charge more than necessary for paid lunches. The current formula is intended to ensure that the paid lunch prices can fund the lunch program, but in many cases schools can fund the program without raising lunch prices.

“Common-sense changes need to be made to the National School Lunch Program to ensure all children have access to nutritious, affordable meals without putting unnecessary burdens on our local school districts,” said Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler. “Local schools require permanent relief and local control, not more mandates and bureaucratically approved waivers.”

The School Lunch Affordability Act amends the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act by repealing the paid lunch equity requirements which eliminates the formula that school food authorities are required to use to establish the price for a paid lunch.

“These outdated regulations are not working as intended, and I’m pleased we could take this key action to reform and remove these outdated rules,” Hartzler added. “This bill protects the student lunch program while allowing school lunch decisions to be made at the local level so parents, teachers and administrators can work together to decide what is best for their children.”

According to a 2014 study from the Office of Government Accountability, participation in the school lunch program has declined by 1.2 million from 2010-2013. The study reports that price increases likely contributed to the decline in the number of students buying full-price lunches. The biggest decline in participation came from those participating in the full-price lunches (1.6 million)while those eating free lunches were on the rise.

The reimbursement rates for paid, free and reduced lunches all stay the same so requiring the School Food Authority to raise prices does not actually save the federal government any money. It simply adds another layer of paperwork that the SFA must adhere to and the higher prices drive our children out of the paid lunch system.