Advocates push to make WIC waivers permanent

Last week, the USDA extended a series of flexibilities in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children for the duration of the Covid-19 public health emergency. The waivers for the program, commonly known as WIC, have allowed participants to apply for benefits remotely rather than in person, and expanded both pickup options and the scope of eligible products. (No paywall)

House Democrats propose SNAP increase, leash on USDA spending

House Democrats proposed on Monday a $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package that included a one-year increase of SNAP benefits by 15 percent, $1 billion in payments to livestock and specialty crop producers, and a requirement for USDA to report to Congress in advance of major outlays.

Perdue unwilling to use SNAP to fullest during pandemic, says think tank

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue shows more enthusiasm for cutting SNAP enrollment than in making full use of food stamps to alleviate hunger during the pandemic, said the think tank Center for American Progress (CAP) on Thursday. SNAP enrollment has rocketed to 43 million, the highest level since October 2017, and estimates of food insecurity have tripled because of the coronavirus.

While Congress fiddles, a critical tool to address child hunger is about to expire

A critical tool for fighting child hunger is set to expire at the end of the month, despite persistent need among millions of children due to the pandemic. The Pandemic-EBT program was created in March to give families funds to buy groceries in lieu of free or reduced-price breakfasts and lunches their children would otherwise have been getting at school. Unless Congress renews the program before Sept. 30, eligible families will lose access to the benefit until at least after the presidential election. (No paywall)

After record-low rate in 2019, hunger more than doubles in pandemic

Nearly 4 percent of U.S. households sometimes or often did not have enough to eat in 2019, including 5 million children, according to the USDA. Although those numbers are significant, they are the lowest on record since the USDA’s Economic Research Service began tracking these statistics in 1998. But by August of this year, those numbers had more than doubled.

Q&A: A rural Montana school district scrambles keep kids fed during pandemic

Like school nutrition staff across the country, Marsha Wartick, food service director for the Ronan School District in tiny Ronan, Montana, spent the last six months feeding hungry kids and their families under a USDA emergency meals program. Now, as kids head back to school, Wartick is scrambling to react to mixed signals from the administration and hoping the emergency program is allowed to continue through the entire school year. (No paywall)

In abrupt reversal, USDA extends summer school food waivers

In a sudden reversal, the Department of Agriculture announced Monday that it would extend school meal waivers through Dec. 30—less than a week after Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue had said the programs would lapse by Sept. 30. The shift came amid an outcry from advocates and lawmakers from both parties, who argued that Perdue’s refusal to extend key waivers and flexibilities around free summer meals would worsen record levels of child hunger. (No paywall)

Trump boosts food-box funding by $1 billion

Hours after he was nominated for a second term, President Trump announced at a produce packing house in North Carolina an additional $1 billion on Monday for the food-box giveaway program that is his administration's answer to hunger during the pandemic. Nearly 71 million boxes of food have been delivered since the program began on May 15 but critics question if it is a fair and efficient way to help families.

Former education secretary joins calls for school food flexibility

The Trump administration should immediately extend two waivers that allow schools during the coronavirus pandemic to serve meals at no charge to students, whether in the cafeteria, the classroom, or as grab-and-go meals at the curbside, said former education secretary Arne Duncan on Monday.

Surge in grocery prices will bring a 5 percent increase in SNAP benefits

Food stamp benefits will rise by 5.3 percent in October, to a maximum of $680 per month for a family of four in the continental United States, said the USDA Food and Nutrition Service on Wednesday. The cost-of-living adjustment was announced even as anti-hunger groups are calling for a temporary 15 percent increase in SNAP benefits during the pandemic.