The U.S. Department of Agriculture has extended three waivers in order to provide more flexibility within the child nutrition programs. The waivers, which were due to expire June 30, will extend through Aug. 31.
Extending the waivers throughout the summer will ensure that local operators of these programs can accommodate their communities while they are continuing to deliver meals to children during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Throughout the pandemic, schools and local program sponsors have used the flexibility afforded by the USDA to find creative ways to feed kids, such as setting up drive-thru pick-ups and delivering meals on bus routes. These innovative models can continue, without interruption, while state and local social distancing orders remain in place.
Since March, USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) has made maximum use of existing program flexibilities and new authorities granted by Congress to make it as easy as possible for children to receive food through the department’s nutrition assistance programs during the national health emergency.
There are three key flexibilities that will allow current operations to continue without disruption throughout the summer:
- Non-Congregate Feeding: Allowing meals to be served to children outside of the normally-required group setting to support social distancing.
- Parent Pickup: Allowing parents and/or guardians to pick up meals and bring them home to their children. This process will help decrease the amount of children congregating in a group session as they will be eating in their homes.
- Meal Times: Waiving requirements that meals be served at certain standard times to allow for grab-n-go options. This also allows for multiple days-worth of meals to be provided at once. This is a convenience for parents to be able to pick up meals once or twice a week instead of having to stop every day to feed their children.
In addition to granting significant program flexibilities through both nationwide and individual state waivers, FNS is rapidly approving states for Pandemic-EBT, which provides food-purchasing benefits, equal to the value of school meals, to households with children who would otherwise be receiving free or reduced-price meals. States that are approved for P-EBT implementation reached 26 with the inclusion of New Hampshire, New Jersey, Ohio, and Texas. These states that are approved to allow SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) households to use their EBT card for online food purchase from approved retailers. FNS has approved 26 plans and continues to review new plans as they are submitted.
FNS administers 15 nutrition assistance programs that have increased the agricultural guidelines to ensure children and low-income individuals and families have nutritious food to eat. FNS also co-develops the Dietary Guidelines, which provide science-based nutrition recommendations and serve as the cornerstone of federal nutrition policy.
For more information, contact Sharon Seyler via email.