FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Contact: Diane Pratt-Heavner
SNA Calls for Summer Meals Program Waivers for SY 2020-21
Schools Request Additional Support to Safely Serve Students During Pandemic
ARLINGTON, VA – The non-profit School Nutrition Association (SNA) is urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to allow schools to continue serving students through summer meals programs to address challenges of providing safe access to healthy school meals next school year. In a letter today raising serious concerns about serving students during the pandemic, SNA asked USDA to immediately extend all Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and Seamless Summer Option (SSO) COVID-19 waivers, including Area Eligibility, through the end of SY 2020/2021. The extensions would allow schools to serve all students school breakfast and lunch at no charge to best support social distancing measures, whether service is in the cafeteria, the classroom or at curbside pick-up.
SNA’s June 4th letter to USDA requested these waiver extensions to ensure schools could continue serving grab-and-go meals to distance learners and also modify meal service to accommodate school reopening plans. On June 25, USDA responded, issuing waivers to regulations under the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP), but USDA did not address SFSP or SSO.
Although the recent waiver extensions guarantee a minimum of service to students, SNA members are raising numerous concerns regarding operating NSLP/SBP during an emergency. Challenges detailed in the letter include the overwhelming task of quickly enrolling millions of newly eligible students in the free and reduced-price meal program; the concern for cash-strapped school meal programs to shoulder the significantly higher costs and lower reimbursement rates of NSLP/SBP meals during the pandemic; and safety concerns for both students and staff:
The logistics of checking student eligibility and collecting payments under NSLP/SBP meal distribution are inherently risky. School nutrition staff is exposed to hundreds of students, sometimes twice a day; having them handle money from students or utilize a touch-pad payment system puts both students and staff at increased risk.
Extending waivers for the summer meals programs would ensure schools have regulatory flexibility to quickly modify meal services and provide consistent student access to meals in the event of unanticipated school closures due to COVID-19 outbreaks.
A recent SNA survey finds school meal programs are struggling with widespread financial losses resulting from COVID-19 school closures. In addition to calling on USDA for regulatory flexibility, SNA has also urged Congress to provide much needed funding to cover costs associated with COVID-19 closures.
About School Nutrition Association:
The School Nutrition Association (SNA) is a national, non-profit professional organization representing more than 55,000 school nutrition professionals across the country. Founded in 1946, SNA and its members are dedicated to making healthy school meals and nutrition education available to all students. For more information on school meals, visit www.SchoolNutrition.org/SchoolMeals.