On Aug. 31, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it would extend the waivers allowing summer meal program operators to continue serving free meals to children through Dec. 31, 2020.  

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, USDA has provided an unprecedented amount of flexibilities to help schools feed kids through the school meal programs, and today, we are also extending summer meal program flexibilities for as long as we can, legally and financially,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue in a press release issued by the department. “We appreciate the incredible efforts by our school foodservice professionals year in and year out, but this year we have an unprecedented situation. This extension of summer program authority will employ summer program sponsors to ensure meals are reaching all children – whether they are learning in the classroom or virtually –  so they are fed and ready to learn, even in new and ever-changing learning environments.” 

Background USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is extending a suite of nationwide waivers for the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and Seamless Summer Option (SSO) through the end of 2020, or until available funding runs out. This includes: 

  • Allowing SFSP and SSO meals to be served in all areas and at no cost; 
  • Permitting meals to be served outside of the typically-required group settings and meal times; 
  • Waiving meal pattern requirements as necessary; and 
  • Allowing parents and guardians to pick-up meals for their children. 

Collectively, these flexibilities ensure meal options for children continue to be available so children can access meals under all circumstances.