CLEVELAND — The United States Department of Agriculture will extend summer meal programs through as late as Dec. 31, allowing school districts and summer meal operators to continue serving free meals to all children into the fall months.
The extension through the end of 2020, or until funding runs out, allows meals to be served outside of the typically-required group settings and meal times and allows parents and guardians to pick-up meals for their children.
“These waivers will ensure every hungry child in the city of Cleveland has access to healthy school meals, while eliminating the burdensome, time-consuming process of verifying and documenting enrollment,” said Chris Burkhardt, executive director of school nutrition for Cleveland Metropolitan School District. “Our school nutrition team had to develop and implement a bar code verification system this fall that has greatly complicated and slowed service. With these waivers, we’ll be able to speed up meal distribution for the safety of staff and families and ensure no student is denied access to healthy meals.”
USDA said it continues to calculate remaining appropriated funds from Congress to determine how far they can extend the summer meal program waivers into the future. Congress has not authorized enough funding for the entire 2020-21 school year.
“School Nutrition Association greatly appreciates USDA addressing the critical challenges shared by our members serving students on the frontlines these first weeks of school. These waivers will allow school nutrition professionals to focus on nourishing hungry children for success, rather than scrambling to process paperwork and verify eligibility in the midst of a pandemic," said School Nutrition Association (SNA) President Reggie Ross in a news release. "We look forward to continuing our dialogue with USDA to ensure school meal programs are equipped to meet the future needs of America’s students.”
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