School meal waivers extended beyond June 30th
By: Sydney Sheffield
President Joe Biden has signed the Keep Kids Fed Act of 2022 into law, extending partial school meal flexibilities through the next school year five days before they were set to expire. The Act will provide important funding and flexibility for communities to provide children healthy meals this summer and provide support to schools and daycares to respond to supply chain challenges and high food costs for the coming school year.
A few days before the Act became law, a bipartisan group of lawmakers established a deal to expand some of the waivers, only days before they would expire. If Congress didn’t extend the waiver, the program would end on June 30th, cutting approximately 10 million children off from free meals this summer, through the next school year, and for the foreseeable future. The House approved the Senate changes to a $3 billion plan to extend all pandemic school meal waivers through the summer, increase supply chain flexibilities, and increase federal reimbursements for school through the 2022-2023 school year.
“The Biden Administration knows that ongoing impacts of supply chain issues and rising food costs continue to be a challenge for many schools and child nutrition operators, and we are thankful for Congress stepping up to ease some of their burdens,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “On our end, this funding boost is yet another step the Administration is taking to ensure every child who needs a meal, gets one. No matter the circumstances, USDA and all our partners must continue collaborating to provide our young ones with the healthy meals they count on.”
The Keep Kids Fed Act will aid program operators across the country by:
- Extending nationwide flexibilities to summer meal programs through September 2022, including allowing sites to continue serving meals in all areas, at no cost to families
- Providing schools with an additional temporary reimbursement of 40 cents per lunch and 15 cents per breakfast, and childcare centers with an extra 10 cents reimbursement per meal
- Providing all family day care homes with a higher temporary reimbursement rate for the school year 2022-2023
- Equipping USDA with additional flexibilities to support schools, as needed, based on their local conditions
The waivers are being celebrated by many. Jillien Meier, director of partnerships and campaign strategies at No Kid Hungry, told NPR, that the waivers “really provided a lifeline because, in a lot of rural and suburban communities, poverty is so widely dispersed over large geographies. So even if 49% of your kids in your community qualifies for free or reduced-price meals under the National School Lunch Program, you can't operate an open summer meal site."
“USDA is working alongside our child nutrition partners to support them in delivering vital, nutritious meals to tens of millions of children every school day,” said Stacy Dean, deputy undersecretary of food, nutrition, and consumer services. “There’s a long road ahead, but the extra support and funding for our operators will help them continue to serve our children well. We can – and will – overcome these challenges, together.”