ST. LOUIS – Catholic schools around the St. Louis area could soon decide whether to drop out of a USDA nutrition program.

Earlier this year, the Biden administration released guidance and asked states to investigate allegations of discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation in order to fund federal nutrition programs in schools. While there are religious exemptions around such guidance, Catholic schools around St. Louis could choose to withdraw from food programs.

The Catholic News Agency reports the Archdiocese of St. Louis released a private memo on Aug. 16 advising archdiocesan schools within the region to drop out of the lunch program. 

Brecht Mulvihill, the archdiocese’s executive director of communications, told the Catholic New Agency that the Archdiocese is no longer participating in the National School Lunch Program or USDA Special Milk Program.

“As with any federal subsidy, schools that participate in these programs are subject to a wide variety of federal mandates, which could ultimately impact decisions concerning admissions, extracurricular activities, facilities, and logistics,” Mulvihill told CNA in an email. “In some circumstances, these mandates would impede a school’s ability to faithfully carry out the teachings of the Catholic Church.”

Mulvihill says the Archdiocese of St. Louis is exploring alternative lunch services and doesn’t expect any interruptions in offering nutrition services. It’s unclear how many schools or students this guidance may impact at this time.

In July, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt and 21 other attorneys general filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration over the guidance, alleging it could threaten essential nutrition services to vulnerable groups.

The National School Lunch Program helps nearly 30 million school children each school day. Around 100,000 public and private school nationwide uses federal funding to provide free or reduced-price meals.