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Contact: Elizabeth Cowles
SNA Plea for COVID-19 Waiver Extensions Meets Swift USDA Response
ARLINGTON, VA – Following an urgent plea from the non-profit School Nutrition Association (SNA) earlier this month, the US Department of Agriculture today announced the extension of multiple COVID-19 emergency feeding waivers through the end of School Year 2020/2021. SNA sent a letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on behalf of school nutrition professionals nationwide to request vital regulatory extensions and support to ensure meal programs are equipped to meet children’s critical nutrition needs this fall.
School nutrition professionals must overhaul operations as states and local districts plan a variety of vastly different learning models next school year, from distance learning to modified daily and weekly student schedules. The extension of the following COVID-19 regulatory waivers through next school year will allow school meal programs to 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 sudden COVID-19 school closures:
- Nationwide Meal Times Waiver
- Nationwide Non-congregate Feeding Waiver
- Nationwide Meal Pattern Waiver
- Nationwide Parent/Guardian Meal Pick-Up Waiver
Additionally, USDA announced a new waiver to address offer versus serve requirements at the high school level. Details are being reviewed on the impacts of this waiver.
“After abrupt closings forced a quick transition to emergency feeding programs, school nutrition professionals effectively changed course and implemented waivers to ensure students continued to be nourished,” said SNA President Gay Anderson, SNS. “We greatly appreciate USDA action to extend these waivers so we can address the many variables in planning, preparing and serving our students this fall.”
Following USDA’s extension of the Area Eligibility Waiver through August 31, 2020, SNA continues to advocate for a nationwide waiver through next school year. Area Eligibility requirements for the Summer Foodservice Program and Seamless Summer Option limit “open site” meal service to areas where at least half of the children in the area are eligible for free or reduced-price meals.
To ensure all students have equal access to healthy school meals, SNA has also requested the provision of school meals for all students at no charge for the 2020-2021 school year. This would eliminate the need for overburdened schools to process free and reduced-price meal applications to newly eligible families as reliance on school meals is anticipated to surge with more than 40 million Americans filing for unemployment.
Despite widespread financial losses from COVID-19 closures this spring, school kitchens must be prepared with food, equipment, PPE and staffing to meet the demands for meal service in the new school year. SNA continues to urge Congress for much needed funding to cover costs associated with COVID-19.
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