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.
The USDA will put a "significant" amount of money into large-scale pilot projects of climate-smart agricultural practices to create new markets for sustainably produced products, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Wednesday. In announcing the initiative, which would go into effect next year, he painted dollar signs on his picture of climate mitigation.
Whether they are Democrats or Republicans, members of the House and Senate Agriculture committees routinely say the panels are the least partisan in Congress, even if the harmony is strained from time to time. In the weeks ahead, the infighting over President Biden's two-part infrastructure package will test that comity on the Senate panel.
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.
When it reauthorizes child nutrition programs, Congress should provide meals for free to all students at public schools and offer financial assistance to low-income parents to buy food for their school-age children during the summer and holidays, activists said at a House hearing on Thursday.
Democratic lawmakers announced companion House and Senate bills on Wednesday to give low-income parents money to buy food for their school-age children during the summer and when schools are closed during other parts of the year.
With hunger levels stubbornly high and an estimated 1 in 5 American children obese, Stacy Dean, the deputy undersecretary for food, nutrition, and consumer services, told lawmakers Wednesday that the USDA would update nutrition standards for school meals and the WIC program to meet current Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
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)
More than three dozen Democrats in the House and Senate proposed a dramatic expansion of U.S. spending on school meals to provide free meals for all students, not just low-income children. "What we've seen during this pandemic is that a universal approach to school meals works," said Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a lead sponsor. "We cannot go backwards."
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.