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."

USDA extends waivers on school food program that feeds hungry kids

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. 

Free meals proposed for all students

Congress should permanantly expand the school food program so that all public school students can eat breakfast and lunch for free, said the School Nutrition Association on Tuesday. The association said many school food directors expect to run a deficit this school year because of school closures and the higher cost of preparing and serving meals during the pandemic.

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)

Advocates implore Congress to increase spending on anti-hunger programs

In a largely positive review of government programs to address mounting hunger during Covid-19, a panel of experts and advocates speaking at the National Food Security Conference on Wednesday encouraged Congress to boost spending on the anti-hunger programs it has developed since the pandemic began. (No paywall)

Judge voids USDA move to water down school nutrition rules

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.

USDA will help ‘keep the kids fed’ during Covid-19, says Perdue

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue told school food directors on Monday the government will help them continue feeding children if schools are closed due to Covid-19. “If schools are closed, we are going to do our very best to see you all have the tools you need to keep the kids fed,” he said at a School Nutrition Association conference.

Number of low-income children eating school breakfast hits plateau

After years of increases, the number of low-income children eating free or reduced-price breakfast at school plateaued at 12.4 million during the 2018-19 school year, said the Food Research and Action Center, an anti-hunger group.

Where Perdue sees ‘flexibility’ in school food, critics see junk food

On his sixth day on the job in 2017, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue made chocolate milk safe for schools again, along with white flour and salt, in the name of regulatory flexibility. Those revisions to the school food program became final in late 2018. The USDA will propose a new round of "common-sense flexibility" for school meals this week, says Perdue. Skeptics said it will mean more pizza, burgers and fries and fewer servings of fruits and vegetables.

‘Kids eat local’ bills may be part of child nutrition overhaul

Companion bills introduced in the House and Senate would make it easier for schools to buy locally produced foods to serve to their students, said sponsors on Thursday.