U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced a nationwide extension of another key flexibility for USDA’s child nutrition programs. This waiver allows local partners, who have been working overtime serving meals to kids during the health crisis, the ability to continue serving free meals to all children – regardless of where they live – for the remainder of the summer. This action is part of USDA’s ongoing commitment to making it as easy as possible for local program operators to get food to children impacted by the CoViD-19 pandemic.
“As our nation reopens and people return to work, it remains critical our children continue to receive safe, healthy, and nutritious food. We are extending one of the significant flexibilities provided in March during the coronavirus national emergency to schools, summer sites, and other folks who operate our programs so they can best adapt to the situation on-the-ground and serve our children well,” said Secretary Perdue. “This nationwide flexibility ensures America’s kids will continue to be fed this summer.”
Since the start of the national public health crisis, FNS has used a whole of America approach to ensure those in need have access to one or more of the 15 nutrition assistance programs under USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service’s (FNS) umbrella. To date, FNS has approved over 2,800 flexibilities and will continue to work with states and other partners as the nation turns its focus to reopening in a safe way.
Since March, USDA has been taking swift action to ensure children are fed. In addition to this waiver extension, Secretary Perdue recently announced the extension of three additional nationwide waivers, giving child nutrition program operators the flexibility they need to continue leveraging innovative solutions in support of social distancing – such as delivery and grab n’ go – throughout the remaining summer months until school is back in session. The nationwide waiver extended as part of today’s announcement is for area eligibility, which allows all children in all areas to receive free meals through USDA’s summer meals programs. Typically, USDA funded summer meals sites are limited to low income areas.
In addition to granting significant program flexibilities through both nationwide and state waivers, USDA has taken numerous other actions to ensure children have food to eat throughout the pandemic, including:
- rapidly launching the Meals for Kids interactive site finder – featuring more than 60,000 sites – so families can find free meals for children in their area;
- approving 41 states for Pandemic-EBT, which provides food-purchasing benefits, equal to the value of school meals, to households with children who would otherwise be receiving free or reduced-price meals at school; and
- distributing more than 10 million meals in 36 states directly to low-income children in rural areas through Meals to You, a public-private partnership with the Baylor University Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty, McLane Global, and PepsiCo.
USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service administers 15 nutrition assistance programs that leverage American’s agricultural abundance to ensure children and low-income individuals and families have nutritious food to eat. FNS also co-develops the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which provide science-based nutrition recommendations and serve as the cornerstone of federal nutrition policy.