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Contact: Diane Pratt-Heavner
SNA Lauds School Meal Waiver Extensions
USDA move provides immediate, short-term support for schools, families
ARLINGTON, VA – The School Nutrition Association (SNA) commended the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) decision today to extend all Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and Seamless Summer Option (SSO) waivers through as late as December 31, 2020, dependent on available funding. The move allows schools to offer meals to all children at no charge this fall to minimize the challenges of meal service during a pandemic. SNA is continuing to advocate for these waivers to be extended through School Year (SY) 2020/21.
“These waivers ensure schools can continue to safely meet students’ nutritional needs this fall,” said School Nutrition Association (SNA) President Reggie Ross, SNS. “In the midst of a pandemic, no family should have to worry about their child missing out on healthy school breakfast or lunch. School meal programs face unprecedented challenges and need the assurance that these critical waivers will be available through the entire school year. SNA will continue working with USDA and Congress to further extend these waivers to support school meal programs and the students we serve.”
When schools closed in mid-March due to COVID-19, USDA waivers allowed schools to offer grab and go meals under SFSP/SSO. These programs have permitted schools to serve any child at no charge without having to verify student eligibility for free meals. Beginning in June, SNA led the call for allowing schools to continue operating under SFSP/SSO through the 2020/2021 School Year.
SNA’s July 10th letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Perdue warned that requiring schools to switch back to operating under the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs (NSLP/SBP) would cause many needy students to go without school meals and greatly complicate meal service, raising the risk of COVID-19 exposure during meal distribution. The letter cautioned that “overwhelmed schools will struggle to quickly enroll millions of newly eligible students in the free and reduced-price meal program – an application and verification process already fraught with challenges.”
Last week, SNA’s Board of Directors hosted a call with USDA officials to share urgent feedback from schools that have seen dramatic declines in student lunch participation in the opening weeks of school, leaving meal programs in dire financial circumstances.
“School Nutrition Association greatly appreciates USDA addressing the critical challenges shared by our members serving students on the frontlines these first weeks of school,” said Ross. “These waivers will allow school nutrition professionals to focus on nourishing hungry children for success, rather than scrambling to process paperwork and verify eligibility in the midst of a pandemic. We look forward to continuing our dialogue with USDA to ensure school meal programs are equipped to meet the future needs of America’s students.”
SNA has also urged Congress to pass legislation and provide much needed emergency financial relief to school meal programs to cover costs associated with COVID-19 closures. A recent SNA survey finds school meal programs are struggling with widespread financial losses resulting from school closures and the higher cost of serving during the pandemic.
About School Nutrition Association:
The School Nutrition Association (SNA) is a national, non-profit professional organization representing 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.