Legislation & Policy
Trump Administration Extends Free Meals for Kids for Entire School Year
Flexibilities now available through June 30, 2021
(Mt. Wolf, PA, October 9, 2020) – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced today that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is extending flexibilities to allow free meals to continue to be available to all children throughout the entire 2020-2021 school year. This unprecedented move is part of USDA’s unwavering commitment to ensuring all children across America have access to nutritious food as the nation recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“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.”
“Northeastern School District has implemented the USDA waiver to offer all students free meals utilizing the SSO program. We have been able to offer free meals to all students in-person (Brick & Mortar) and through Curbside pick-up for virtual students. I am extremely proud of my staff and their flexibility to do their best to keep school meals as normal as possible during a pandemic. The Child Nutrition Staff have wanted to continue hot meals for students and wanted to offer their favorite meal choices,” said Kimberly Alessandroni, Director of Child Nutrition Services, Northeastern School District.
“These waiver extensions are great news for America’s students and the school nutrition professionals working so hard to support them throughout this pandemic," said School Nutrition Association President Reggie Ross, SNS. “Families struggling to make ends meet can be assured that their students will have access to healthy school meals, whether they are learning at home or in school. School meal programs can remain focused on safely meeting nutritional needs of children in their communities without having to worry about burdensome regulations. The School Nutrition Association appreciates USDA’s ongoing efforts to address the many challenges our members have faced while working on the frontlines to feed hungry children.”
USDA previously extended child nutrition waivers through December 2020 based upon available funding at the time. The flexibilities extended today will allow schools and other local program operators to continue to leverage the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and the Seamless Summer Option (SSO) to provide no cost meals to all children, available at over 90,000 sites across the country, through June 30, 2021.
USDA understands a one-size-fits-all approach is not an effective way to feed children, particularly during the current challenges facing our country. USDA can extend these waivers due to language in the continuing resolution signed into law by President Trump last week.
USDA is extending waivers through June 30, 2021, that:
- Allow SFSP and SSO meals to be served in all areas and at no cost;
- Permit meals to be served outside of the typically required group settings and meal times;
- Waive meal pattern requirements, as necessary; and
- Allow parents and guardians to pick-up meals for their children.
These program flexibilities allow schools and local program operators to operate a meal service model that best meets their community’s unique needs, while keeping kids and staff safe. Additional flexibilities are being granted on a state-by-state basis, as required by law, to facilitate a wide range of meal service options and accommodate other operational needs.
Early in the pandemic, USDA adapted its summer feeding site finder to ensure parents and children would be able to easily locate sites that were providing meal service. With this new announcement, the Meals for Kids interactive site finder will continue to collect data, voluntarily provided by USDA’s state agency partners, about operating sites including location, meal service times, and additional information.
Since COVID-19 school closures, SNA has advocated on members' behalf, urging USDA to extend waivers to preserve the sustainability of school meal programs. In addition to calling on USDA for regulatory flexibility, SNA has also urged Congress to provide much needed funding. You can get involved by visiting SNA’s Action Network (schoolnutrition.org/takeaction) to write to your legislators today!
TASN update from Public Policy and Legislation Chair, Teresa Lane
Two key school nutrition bills have been introduced, and we need your help to raise awareness and support! Safe and consistent student access to school meals this fall continues to be threatened by unprecedented challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Please take a few minutes to write your legislators urging them to support these bills.
The Pandemic Child Hunger Prevention Act, introduced by House Committee on Education and Labor Chairman Robert C. "Bobby" Scott (VA-03), would guarantee every child has safe access to healthy school meals during SY 2020-21. With a multitude of families newly-eligible for free and reduced-price meals, offering meals to all students at no charge spares overburdened schools the massive task of distributing and processing meal applications and reduces the stigma for children who depend on free meals.
H.R. 7764, The Child Nutrition Relief Act of 2020, introduced by U.S. Rep. Nydia Velázquez (NY-7) would allow USDA to extend all COVID-19 school feeding waivers through June 30, 2021. Extending these waivers will allow school meal programs to seamlessly continue grab-and-go meal pick up for distance learners, serve meals to students in the classroom or adjust meal service in the event of a sudden COVID-19 school closure.
Local Policy Updates:
Hello TASN members and School Lunch Heroes.
As we are prepare to start a new school year, please use the letter below to inform your local and federal legislative representatives about the waivers we are requesting. Please see the letter and a printable PDF below.
Update on School Meal Flexibilities
USDA Extends Comment Period on Proposed School and Summer Meal Reforms
How can proposed SNAP changes affect the students in your district is something to think about.
Northeast ISD school leaders expressed concerns for proposed SNAP changes below.
Advocacy Tools and Helpful Links :
For Public Policy and Legislation Action Alerts:
Find Your Representative:
Resources-FNS Response to Covid-19