Two days after taking office, President Biden directed the USDA to boost benefits by 15 percent in the P-EBT program for school-age children in low-income families, and to include children under the age of 6 in P-EBT. The expansion would aid millions of children, but only eight states are approved for P-EBT for this school year, which started months ago.
Even before the pandemic, Denise Santos was struggling to get food to in-need families in Puerto Rico. As president of the Banco de Alimentos de Puerto Rico, the island’s largest food bank, she had spent the years that followed Hurricanes Irma and Maria—which devastated Puerto Rico in 2017—working to fight hunger. Then, in January, a massive earthquake hit, unleashing thousands of smaller temblors that left thousands of families homeless, and destroyed infrastructure. Two months later, the pandemic struck. (No paywall)
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 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)
Participation in the school lunch program nosedived 28 percent during the first months of the pandemic despite breakneck efforts across the nation to provide an alternative to meals in the cafeteria, said USDA data. An anti-hunger group said extension of the so-called P-EBT program and an increase in SNAP benefits were needed to treat "this child hunger crisis."
Three Southern states — Virginia, Kentucky and Arkansas — are among the eight states nationwide with the lowest SNAP participation rates, says the Food Research and Action Center. The coronavirus pandemic "is exacerbating the already alarming rates of food insecurity in the Southern region," said a FRAC report that recommends expansion of federal nutrition programs, such as SNAP, WIC and school meals, to meet the need.
The Trump administration's decision to delay and dilute rules calling for less sodium and more whole grains in school meals was overturned by a federal judge in Maryland, said the nonprofit legal organization Democracy Forward on Monday. "Our victory ensures that school lunches will be healthier for 30 million children," said the group on social media.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced the second public-private initiative to provide replacement meals for low-income children who lost access to free or reduced-price meals due to school closures. The new project would feed children "vulnerable to hunger" in Ohio and follows the creation of an effort in Texas to offer shelf-stable meals to students in a limited number of rural schools closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.(No paywall)
The Department of Agriculture announced Tuesday that it will be delivering boxes of food to children affected by school closures due to the novel coronavirus in rural America. In partnership with the Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty, McLane Global, and PepsiCo, the USDA says it will eventually deliver 1 million meals per week.(No paywall)
New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee and a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president, announced a bill on Wednesday to effectively ban the pesticide chlorpyrifos from school food.