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SNA Urges Quick Action to Keep School Meal Programs Viable

2020-06-04

Meeting critical student needs requires waiver extensions, universal meals

ARLINGTON, VA – The non-profit School Nutrition Association (SNA) is calling for the immediate extension of COVID-19 emergency feeding waivers through the end of School Year 2020/2021 and the provision of school meals for all students at no charge.  Swift action is needed to ensure meal programs are equipped to meet children’s critical nutrition needs this fall.

The request was the basis of a letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue outlining urgent concerns for school meal programs, which face a financial crisis due to COVID-19 closures. As the school year ends with widespread financial losses, school nutrition professionals must overhaul their operations while meeting unprecedented demand, as reliance on school meals is anticipated to surge due to unemployment.

“Schools are considering vastly different learning models for the upcoming school year and urgently need answers now to plan modified school meal service based on what will be permissible under USDA regulations.”

Some school meal programs will be required to continue costly emergency feeding operations for students engaged in distance learning while they simultaneously mobilize to serve other students in the classroom. Extending current COVID-19 waivers through the next school year would allow schools to adapt meal service methods to evolving plans for restructuring the school day and to respond to potential secondary COVID-19 shutdowns. Meanwhile, providing universal meals – breakfast and lunch for all students at no charge – would eliminate the need for overburdened schools to process free and reduced-price meal applications to newly eligible families.

“USDA must act to preserve [school meal] programs, which play a critical role in the public health response to the pandemic and combatting chronic child hunger.”

A recent SNA survey finds school meal programs are ill-equipped to meet all these costly challenges due to 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

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