After pandemic pain, school meal programs brace for next year

School districts across the country pared their menus, reduced staffing, and canceled equipment purchases because of the pandemic, but nearly half of them still lost money in the cafeteria during the past school year, said a survey released on Thursday by the School Nutrition Association. More than eight of every 10 food directors said they were concerned about financial losses and staff shortages in the upcoming school year.

Report: Pandemic waivers helped boost WIC enrollment

Pandemic-era tweaks to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children helped boost participation in the program, commonly known as WIC, after years of declining enrollment, according to a report released yesterday by the Food Research & Action Center.

‘Put kids first,’ say advocates in call for universal free school meals

On the heels of new legislation that would provide free school meals to all American children, advocates from the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC), American Academy of Pediatrics and American Federation of Teachers doubled down on the urgent need for action amid persistent childhood hunger and an escalating obesity crisis.(No paywall)

USDA extends waivers on school food program that feeds hungry kids

The Agriculture Department on Tuesday extended waivers to help school meal programs and childcare institutions provide kids with healthy food, as schools eye a return to in-person learning by fall 2021. Critically, the Department announced that these measures  on meal services will remain in place through June 30, 2022. 

As schools reopen, the fight over nutrition standards resumes, with salt and sugar still in the crosshairs

School nutrition standards haven’t been updated since 2010, when the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act — former First Lady Michelle Obama’s overhaul of school nutrition standards that mandated more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and reduced sodium — was passed. As Congress moves forward with a long-overdue Child Nutrition Reauthorization, lawmakers and advocates are sparring over what changes, if any, should be made to the food kids eat at school.(No paywall)

Lessons from the pandemic: Broaden child nutrition, be flexible on rules

The government should permanently adopt the innovations of the pandemic that made school meals available when classrooms were idle and allowed WIC interviews by phone and video rather than requiring applicants to appear in person, said Senate Agriculture chairwoman Debbie Stabenow on Thursday.

USDA: Student participation in school meal programs dropped by a third last year

Student participation in school meal programs dropped 30 percent in the first nine months of the pandemic, according to new USDA data, leaving kids without meals amid acute rates of food insecurity and draining the programs of critical revenue.

USDA extends school-meal waivers through September

The USDA said Tuesday that it will extend a series of waivers to school meal programs through Sept. 30, as the pandemic hits its one-year mark and ongoing school closures continue to exacerbate food insecurity among low-income children. (No paywall)

FRAC says free school breakfast is crucial to addressing hunger, academic performance

Nearly a year into the pandemic, school closures have taken a harsh toll on American kids. Virtual classes have left many behind academically, and losing access to school meals has increased child hunger across the country, as replacement programs have failed to meet rising need. As children return to the classroom, school breakfasts will be critical in both curbing hunger and improving academic outcomes, according to the Food Research & Action Center’s (FRAC) annual Breakfast Scorecard, which was released today.

P-EBT to be renewed for a full year, says Pelosi

The stopgap USDA program that helps low-income parents buy food for their children who miss school meals because of closures will be renewed for a full year, rather than expiring on Sept. 30, said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday. Extension of the so-called Pandemic EBT program was part of nearly $8 billion in nutrition assistance added to a government funding bill during negotiations with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Pelosi said in a statement.