WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Friday announced that it was extending authorization for all schools to offer free meals for students through the 2020-21 school year. The move is intended to allow districts the flexibility in offering either in-person or off-site meal programs for students as the country continues to recover from the impacts of COVID-19.
“The USDA has taken the lead on ensuring that our nation’s children have access to warm, nutritional meals, no matter their schooling situation or the family’s ability to pay,” said U.S. Congressman Roger Marshall, M.D. “As a father, grandfather and physician, I am committed to ensuring that our children, especially those unable to return to the classroom, are provided access to school lunches and provided an opportunity for access to at least one hot meal each day. Since the start of this pandemic, USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue has ensured that the USDA and its meal programs were responding to the needs of the schools and communities that it serves, and I applaud this next step in maintaining nutritional support for our most vulnerable.”
“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.”
This announcement builds on several previous program changes and flexibilities implemented by the USDA starting in March to ensure schools could continue to provide meals for their students. 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 both on-site at schools or at meal sites in the community.