The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced Monday it will allow schools to continue serving free meals to all children through the end of the year.
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U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue made the announcement that it will allow summer meal program operators to continue serving free meals to all children as late as December 31, 2020, or until funding runs out, according to a press release.
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“As our nation reopens and people return to work, it remains critical our children continue to receive safe, healthy, and nutritious food. During the COVID-19 pandemic, USDA has provided an unprecedented amount of flexibilities to help schools feed kids through the school meal programs, and today, we are also extending summer meal program flexibilities for as long as we can, legally and financially,” said Secretary Perdue.
Previously, the USDA had said schools would not be allowed to serve free meals to students once the school year resumed in fall, which sparked backlash.
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“Today’s announcement brings a huge relief to our school meal program and the community we serve,” said Lindsay Aguilar, RD, SNS, Director of Food Services for Tucson Unified School District, AZ. “Many of our families who might not qualify for free meals are still going through a tough time and are worried about how to keep food on the table. Now their children will have one less thing to worry about as they adjust to evolving in-school and remote learning scenarios. These waivers also eliminate a massive administrative burden for our school nutrition staff, allowing them to focus on feeding children.”
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The free meals will be provided using “Congressionally appropriated funding” and will continue as long as the funding allows, according to the USDA.