Federal waivers that allowed schools to hand out "grab and go" meals to students, and that made meals free to all students, were powerful tools in blunting the impact of the pandemic on food insecurity among children, said USDA economists. Although the number of school meals declined 17 percent in fiscal 2020, because of the waivers 1.7 billion meals were served from March-May 2020 "that may have otherwise not been distributed," they said in a Covid-19 working paper.
During congressional committee work on the Biden administration's $3.5 trillion "build back better" bill, majority-party House Democrats approved a $35 billion expansion of child nutrition programs last week and were expected to vote on Monday for an additional $66 billion for forestry, rural economic development and agricultural research.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.