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Senators Push to Extend School Meal Program Waivers
Pennsylvania Ag Connection - 07/31/2020

U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) joined his colleagues in urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to extend school lunch program waivers for the 2020-2021 school year, in order to help provide school meal program directors and staff the certainty they need to plan the upcoming year and adjust meal distribution. Due to the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of parents have lost their jobs and millions more students will be dependent on school-provided meals. Granting these waivers will help better ensure school meal program directors can procure food, equipment, supplies and place orders in preparation for the upcoming school year.

"We write in support of the School Nutrition Association's (SNA) request that United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) extend a number of school meal program waivers for the entire 2020-2021 school year," the senators wrote. "The COVID-19 pandemic has forced schools around the country to close their buildings and shift instruction to online and distance-learning models."

They continued, "For many children, school breakfast and lunch may be the only healthy and regular meals they receive. We want to thank USDA for its flexibility granting waivers of school meal program requirements this past school year and this summer. The 2020-2021 school year will likely be marked by similar closures, with many children having to learn from home."

The senators urged USDA to extend the following waivers nationwide until the end of the 2020-2021 school year:

- Unexpected School Closures Waiver

- Afterschool Activity Waiver

- Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program Parent Pick-Up Waiver

- Waiver of Child Nutrition Monitoring

- Waiver of Food Management Company Contract Duration Requirements

- Waiver of Local School Wellness Assessments

- Area Eligibility Waiver

- Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and Seamless Summer Option (SSO) Waivers

The Senate colleagues also asked USDA to make additional funds available to assist schools with the cost of delivering meals to low-income students until regular school operations are restored. Under current laws, the transportation costs for delivering meals to low-income students are not reimbursed by USDA, leaving many schools to absorb these cost for the foreseeable future.

The letter was led by Sens. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Susan Collins (R-ME), and it was also signed by Sens. Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tom Carper (D-DE), Bob Casey (D-PA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Doug Jones (D-AL), Angus King (I-ME), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Ed Markey (D-MA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Gary Peters (D-MI), Jack Reed (D-RI), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Tina Smith (D-MN), Tom Udall (D-NM), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

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