Food Research & Action Center joins call for extension of free school meals | Education

MASSENA – The Food Research & Action Center, a national nonprofit organization working to eradicate poverty-related hunger and undernutrition in the United States, has joined other officials in calling for free meals for all students be extended to the 2022-23 school year.

As it stands, school districts would no longer be able to serve free lunches to all students after June 30.

But, the FRAC has joined the New York State Council of School Superintendents and other national, state and local organizations in requesting an extension for another school year.

In a letter sent to congressional leaders signed by 23 organizations last month, the New York State Council of School Superintendents and other organizations asked the US Department of Agriculture to extend the waiver that would allow districts to continue serving free meals at the end of the school year. and summer vacation begins.

The letter was addressed to the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations and the Subcommittees on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies, with a copy to the Senate Agriculture Committee. , nutrition and forests; House Committee on Education and Labor; and the Office of Management and Budget.

“Congress must empower the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to maintain child nutrition waivers throughout the 2022-2023 school year in the appropriations package currently being negotiated and expected to be adopted this week,” FRAC president Luis Guardia said in a statement. . “These waivers have been essential to support school nutrition operations so that children have access to school and summer meals throughout the pandemic, and they are needed as schools and families recover and respond to the fallout. economic, health and educational aspects of the pandemic. ”

He said a report released this week by the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service “highlights the negative impact of supply chain disruptions and staffing issues on school nutrition programs” at the during the 2021-22 school year.

“The report also found that nearly 90% of school districts used the Seamless Summer Option (SSO) waiver to serve meals for the 2021-2022 school year, allowing schools to provide all students with no-cost meals and offers higher reimbursement rates that have been needed to support nutrition finances during the pandemic,” he added.

Mr Guardia said a report prepared by the FRAC found a 32.4 per cent drop in lunch attendance in 2020-21 compared to 2018-19 – the last full school year before the pandemic.

“Student attendance at school breakfast and lunch has dropped dramatically across the country during the COVID-19 pandemic, but things would be much worse without the child nutrition waivers,” said he declared.

The USDA waivers were originally put in place toward the end of the 2019-20 school year. The authority was established through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and was extended for fiscal year 2021 through the Standing Appropriations Act of 2021 and another act extension. It was later extended again until June 30, 2022, through the Government Funding Extension and Emergency Assistance Provision Act.

Usually only low-income families are eligible and there are restrictions on where families can pick up food and how much they can take, but the USDA waived those limits due to the pandemic. Waivers allow for safe meal distribution sites that serve all children free of charge, regardless of income. All children and youth 18 and under can receive meals at no cost, even if they are not students in their local school district.

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