The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has extended critical child nutrition waivers and flexibilities for schools and child care providers through the entire 2021–2022 school year.
Since March 2020, these waivers have been essential to ensuring that children have access to free meals through the federal child nutrition programs during a time of escalating food insecurity. As the pandemic continues to impact communities across the country, this extension will give schools and child care providers the flexibility and stability needed to maintain their meal service operations in the upcoming school year and through June 30, 2022.
The nationwide waivers include:
- Seamless Summer Option, which will allow schools to provide meals that meet the school breakfast and lunch nutrition standards and to receive the higher Summer Food Service Program reimbursement rate. This option allows schools to serve free meals to all children, regardless of location.
- Area Eligibility, which allows free meals to all children even if they do not have at least half of children eligible for free and reduced-price school meals, which is normally required to provide free meal service.
- Meal Pattern Flexibility, which allows for flexibility in meeting the meal pattern requirements in specific situations;
- Non-Congregate, which allows meals to be served and eaten outside of group settings;
- Meal Service Times, which allows service outside of standard meal times (including allowing for multiple meals to be served at one time); and
- Parent/Guardian Pick Up, which allows a parent or guardian to pick up meals to take home to children.
Hunger Free New Jersey applauds USDA for its leadership and timely decision to extend the waivers for this extended period for schools and child care. This will go a long way toward helping to ensure our children have healthy food to eat, every single day.