USDA Extends Free Meals for All Kids

    Department Thanks School Nutrition Partners for Dedication to Service

    President Donald Trump proclaimed this week National School Lunch Week 2020 , highlighting the vital role of school nutrition professionals in ensuring that children in all communities nationwide continue to get nutritious meals, despite the challenges posed by the current public health emergency. To keep this work going, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue recently announced the continued extension of nationwide flexibilities that allow free school meals for all children throughout the entire 2020-2021 school year.

    “As our nation recovers and reopens, we want to ensure that children continue to receive the nutritious breakfasts and lunches they count on during the school year wherever they are, and however they are learning,” said Secretary Perdue. “We are grateful for the heroic efforts by our school food service professionals who are consistently serving healthy meals to kids during these trying times, and we know they need maximum flexibility right now. I appreciate President Trump for his unwavering commitment to ensuring kids receive the food they need during this pandemic and for supporting USDA in continuing to provide these unprecedented flexibilities.”

    “Children can’t focus on learning if they are hungry,” said USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Brandon Lipps. “And despite the unprecedented circumstances, Americans can count on USDA’s child nutrition programs and our hard working partners in communities across America to ensure our nation’s school children get the food they need to grow and thrive.”

    In announcing the flexibilities, USDA leaders thanked President Trump for signing into law continuing appropriations that extended funding allowing USDA to make this unprecedented move. Since then, many partners have joined in to express their gratitude. Here is what they are saying:

    “These waivers allow our district to reach so many more students in need of healthy meals,” said Beth Wallace, SNS, Executive Director of Food and Nutrition Services for Jeffco Public Schools in Lakewood, CO . “Our large school district has encountered unique challenges at each of our schools during the pandemic. Extending these waivers eliminates numerous regulatory hurdles for our hardworking school nutrition staff and allows them to customize meal service to suit the specific needs of their school communities.”

    “Despite significant need in our community this fall, it was very difficult to collect free and reduced-price meal applications, especially with students learning remotely. These waivers allow us to serve all students in need for free and provide families of remote learners with multiple days worth of meals at one time, which is especially important when so many struggle with transportation,” said Sharon Glosson, MS, RDN, LD, SNS, Executive Director of School Nutrition for North East I.S.D. in San Antonio, TX .

    “This is an important victory for children,” said Lisa Davis, Share Our Strength Senior Vice President . “We commend the USDA for extending these essential waivers through the academic year.”

    “FRAC commends the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for its decision to extend the Summer Nutrition waivers through June 30, 2021. This extension will ensure schools and private nonprofit organizations have the consistency and time needed in order to effectively plan and implement meal service for millions of children across the country who rely on free and reduced-price school meals,” said Luis Guardia, President, Food Research & Action Center .

    “With continued school disruptions, our network of member food banks were eager to see the United States Department of Agriculture take action to extend critical child nutrition waivers until the end of the academic year. School meals are the only reliable source of nutrition each day for millions of children in this country, and this announcement will ensure that families are not turned away or forced to go to another location to access meals,” said Kate Leone, Chief Government Relations Officer, Feeding America .

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