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USDA extends free meals to students through 2022 school year

FILE: Some schools facing lunch shortages due to pandemic pause
FILE: Some schools facing lunch shortages due to pandemic pause(DAKOTA NEWS NOW)
Published: Apr. 20, 2021 at 6:51 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, KS (KWCH) - The U.S. Department of Agriculture extended Child Nutrition Program waivers through 2022. The program will continue to reimburse schools and childcare centers for free meals to all students regardless of their income. Several Kansas school districts are currently opted-in to the program.

”Schools, food service workers, bus drivers, custodial staff, volunteers, Kansas State Department of Education and so many others have stepped up amid the pandemic to see that our kids have what they need to thrive,” Jami Reever, Kansas Appleseed executive director said. “The USDA’s proactiveness in extending child nutrition waivers through the next school year will allow that work to continue.”

According to Feeding America, one in four Kansas kids is food insecure. The COVID-19 crisis only exacerbated food insecurity and hardship in Kansas. The Summer Food Service Program and other Child Nutrition Programs offer a lifeline for families impacted by the pandemic. From March 2020 to March 2021, over 53 million free meals have been served to Kansas kids through the Summer Food Service Program, which helped to fill the meal gaps left by school closures.The extended waivers include:

  • The Seamless Summer Option allows schools to serve free meals to all children, regardless of location, in a streamlined way between the regular school year and out-of-school times;
  • The Area Eligibility waiver allows sites in areas that would not meet normally meet the eligibility threshold to provide meals and waives area eligibility for family child care homes;
  • Meal Pattern Flexibility allows for flexibility in meeting the meal pattern requirements in specific situations;
  • The Non-Congregate waiver allows grab-and-go meals, which are not usually permitted under the Summer Food Service Program
  • The Meal Service Times waiver allows for multiple meals to be served at once and for meals to be served outside of standard meal times;
  • The Parent/Guardian Pick Up waiver allows a parent or guardian to pick up meals to take home to children.

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