The U.S. Department of Agriculture has reportedly extended federal waivers for summer food programs that provide free food for at-risk children when schools were shut. The waivers will enable the continuation of the free of charge distribution of meals for all children aged 18 and below through December 31 or whenever finances run out.
According to Sonny Perdue, the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, the department appreciates the incredible efforts put by its school foodservice professionals every year, regardless of the unprecedented situation in 2020. He has further explained that this extension of summer program authority will engage summer program sponsors to make sure that the meals reach all children, irrespective of their learning mode.
Several emergency food providers comprising Gleaners Community Food Bank, Southeastern Michigan, established new distribution sites in high-need areas and began the distribution of food boxes with adequate amounts to feed however number of children each low-income family had. In addition, food banks and rescues such as Food Gatherers and Forgotten Harvest were able to ask for federal reimbursement for the extra food delivered to families.
As per sources, if the waivers had expired, schools would have been allowed to deliver meals only to those children who were enrolled in the district. Children who are very young and cannot attend school as well as the newly vulnerable peers of school-going children registered in reduced-cost and free breakfast and lunch programs would not be eligible to receive food via the federally funded summer meal initiatives.
Emergency food providers feared that shifting back entirely to the school-delivered meal schemes for children enrolled in school and registered for the reduced-price and free breakfast and lunch programs would be another addition to the surging food insecurity in the state and region.
Now that the waivers have been announced, it will be possible to serve meals at no cost, outside the required group settings and typical times in schools, permitting parents and guardians to pick up meals for their children.