- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 14, 2006

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Schools that normally get turkey from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are having to turn elsewhere this year for Thanksgiving lunches for students. There’s not enough for the lunch program that feeds 29 million youngsters.

The problem is not a shortage of birds. They are just too skinny. An unusually hot summer resulted in smaller turkeys. That means supplies are tight, which means prices are a bit higher.

“Even though we’ve put out word we want to buy turkey, they’re not selling it to USDA,” said Billy Cox, spokesman for the Agricultural Marketing Service.

Supermarkets generally get first choice on turkey and other commodities. When there is a surplus or prices are low enough, the Agriculture Department buys some and passes it along to government-subsidized food programs, like school lunches.

While the department is not providing turkey, schools aren’t necessarily going without.

“We didn’t change the menu,” said Shirley Cox, food and nutrition director for Texarkana, Ark., public schools. “We just went ahead and bought turkey for 3,500 to 4,000 meals.”

When Texarkana schools serve the Thanksgiving meal Friday, lunch trays will have turkey, Southern-style cornmeal dressing with giblet gravy, green peas, candied sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce — and small cups of holiday ice cream.

The Agriculture Department’s commodity program gives food to schools, with the amount based on how many free and reduced-price lunches a school serves.

The National Turkey Federation said there is plenty of turkey available for the nation’s Thanksgiving.

“We do hope everybody will have the opportunity to have turkey at the table,” said Sherrie Rosenblatt, spokeswoman for the federation. “Even with markets tight this year, I’m sure there are other ways in which food banks or feeding programs are finding ways to provide.”

While prices for turkey producers are the highest in years, Miss Rosenblatt said grocery shoppers probably won’t see it at the store.

“We’re still seeing a lot of specials running throughout the country, where supermarkets are using whole turkeys as a way to get you into the store to buy the rest of your Thanksgiving dinner,” she said.

Christmas should be better. Market conditions are easing, and the Agriculture Department is already buying turkey for delivery in December, said Susan Acker, spokeswoman for the Food and Nutrition Service, which runs the school-lunch program.

The National School Lunch Program works like this:

• To qualify for free school lunches, a family’s income must be at or below 130 percent of the federal poverty level — about $21,580 for a family of three.

• Reduced-price lunches, costing up to 40 cents a meal, are available for children in families making 185 percent of the poverty level, about $30,710 for a family of three.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times is switching its third-party commenting system from Disqus to Spot.IM. You will need to either create an account with Spot.im or if you wish to use your Disqus account look under the Conversation for the link "Have a Disqus Account?". Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide