Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced Friday the USDA is again extending child nutrition waivers that allow schools and local programs to continue to use the Summer Food Service Program and the Seamless Summer Option to get meals to children during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Through the programs, free meals are available to children at more than 90,000 sites across the country, including New Jersey.
The extended flexibilities allow local operators to use the two programs to serve meals in all areas at no cost, permit meals to be served outside required group settings and meal times, waive meal pattern requirements and allow parents and guardians to pick up meals for their children.
The extension runs through June 30, 2021.
Background USDA previously extended child nutrition waivers through December 2020 based upon available funding at the time. The flexibilities extended Friday will allow schools and other local program operators to continue to leverage the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and the Seamless Summer Option (SSO) to provide no cost meals to all children.
USDA is extending waivers through June 30, 2021, that:
- Allow SFSP and SSO meals to be served in all areas and at no cost;
- Permit meals to be served outside of the typically required group settings and meal times;
- Waive meal pattern requirements, as necessary; and
- Allow parents and guardians to pick-up meals for their children.
These program flexibilities allow schools and local program operators to operate a meal service model that best meets their community’s unique needs, while keeping kids and staff safe. Additional flexibilities are being granted on a state-by-state basis, as required by law, to facilitate a wide range of meal service options and accommodate other operational needs.
Early in the pandemic, USDA adapted its summer feeding site finder to ensure parents and children would be able to easily locate sites that were providing meal service. With this new announcement, the Meals for Kids interactive site finder will continue to collect data, voluntarily provided by USDA’s state agency partners, about operating sites including location, meal service times, and additional information.