- School districts’ grab-and-go meal sites can continue through the summer, under a “non-congregate” waiver now extended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service. The agency also extended a waiver allowing parents to pick up meals for their children and a third that provides flexibility in when meals are served, allowing districts to provide multiple meals at one pick-up to minimize how many times families have to make the trip.
- “As our nation reopens and people return to work, we want to continue to be flexible since there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to feeding kids,” USDA Secretary Sonny Purdue said in a statement. “Extending these waivers throughout the summer ensures local operators can make plans that best suit their communities and keep children fed.”
- New data from the School Nutrition Association, with responses from 1,894 school districts nationally, shows 81% of them use drive-through pick-up sites, 58% allow families to walk up to the sites, 42% are delivering meals to students’ homes and 32% use school buses for that distribution.
SNA and advocacy organizations, such as No Kid Hungry, were concerned if the waivers were not extended, schools’ ability to continue serving meals would be hampered considering many stay-at-home orders are still in place. In addition, many summer programs and facilities that typically serve meals, such as camps and libraries, have been canceled or are still closed.
“Extending these waivers will give schools and local organizations more of the necessary resources and flexibilities they need to continue to operate meal programs safely, effectively and efficiently,” according to a statement from No Kid Hungry. “Summer is already one of the hungriest times of the year for many kids as they lose access to free and low-cost school meals. This year, we are facing skyrocketing need, as the COVID-19 crisis continues to push millions of families into poverty and hunger.”
SNA’s survey also shows, however, that 80% of respondents say their district is serving fewer meals than they would if schools were open, which affects their bottom line. Ninety percent responded that financial losses were a serious or moderate concern, and 861 of the districts responding estimated the revenue decline at more than $626.4 million for the current school year.
The organization is advocating for passage of the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act, which includes $3 billion to offset some of those losses. The U.S. House of Representatives passed the $3 trillion package on Friday, but its chances of making it through the Senate are slim.