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)
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.
Nearly three-fourths of meals served in school lunch programs — 22 million on an average school day — are eaten by poor children. But when the school year ends, only about one in seven of those children gets a meal through the USDA’s summer nutrition programs.
Some 3 million school-age children participated in USDA's summer nutrition program in 2016, down 5 percent from the previous year and the first decline after four years of significant growth, said the antihunger Food Research and Action Center. The program, which provides a daily meal, reaches a much smaller group of low-income children than the school lunch program, about one in seven.
Fewer than one of six eligible children takes part in the summer food program, a participation rate that plateaued in 2015 after three years of steady growth, says the Food Research and Action Center in a report released today. The anti-hunger group said Congress should expand the program as part of the pending update of child-nutrition programs costing $23 billion a year, headlined by school lunch.