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.

Free meals when schools are open, EBT when they’re not, say activists

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.

Bills call for permanent EBT food plan for students

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.

Dean says USDA will bring standards for school meals, WIC, in line with Dietary Guidelines

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.

‘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)

Stepping ahead of Biden, progressives propose free school meals for all

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."

Biden seeks full-scale summer food program for children

Building on P-EBT benefits created in response to the coronavirus, President Biden proposed a vast expansion of the USDA's summer food program on Wednesday that would be available to the 22 million children who eat school meals for free or at a reduced price. The White House also called for expanding a program that provides free school meals to all children in high-poverty neighborhoods.

Child-hunger advocates hope Biden’s expansion of P-EBT becomes a permanent solution to summer food needs

The Agriculture Department on Tuesday announced plans to launch the most significant summer food program in U.S. history, expanding a pandemic-era benefit to feed more than 30 million children over the summer break. Now, anti-hunger advocates are hoping to leverage the expansion into a permanent summer benefits program, a longstanding goal that would fill a gap in food access when school is out.(No paywall)

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.