The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has formally extended the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and Seamless Summer Option (SSO) waivers through the end of the 2020-2021 school year. USDA was granted authority to take this action by last week’s passage by Congress and President Trump’s signing of the Continuing Resolution, and USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue has now announced that school meal programs will have the necessary waivers to offer school meals to all children at no charge through the end of the school year.
The waivers also permit schools to continue allowing parents to collect multiple days’ worth of grab-and-go meals at curbside pickup locations, giving schoolchildren doing distance learning a convenient way to receive free meals
“These waiver extensions are great news for America’s students and the school nutrition professionals working so hard to support them throughout this pandemic," said School Nutrition Association President Reggie Ross, SNS, in a statement applauding the USDA’s action. “Families struggling to make ends meet can be assured that their students will have access to healthy school meals, whether they are learning at home or in school. School meal programs can remain focused on safely meeting nutritional needs of children in their communities without having to worry about burdensome regulations.”
SNA has consistently advocated for passage of these waivers to give school nutrition directors, facing persistent supply chain disruptions, needed certainty on the availability of the waivers to place orders for the spring and plan menus for the months ahead. They also speed up meal distribution, reducing contact between students and staff and heighten safety by eliminating requirements to collect payment or verify student eligibility for free meals.
SNA is now calling on Congress to provide much-needed emergency financial relief to school meal programs to cover higher costs and financial losses associated with COVID-19 closures. SNA urges swift passage of Heroes Act 2.0, which provides those emergency relief funds.