USDA approves Upton’s request to extend waivers to help feed students in need
U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, last Thursday sent an urgent letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue requesting that the department extend waivers to help feed students during the COVID-19 crisis, and today Perdue announced he has approved the request.
By extending the waivers, summer meal program operators will be able to continue serving free healthy and nutritious meals for students and families in need, regardless of whether students are returning for in-person or virtual instruction. The Department of Agriculture is extending a number of flexibilities through December 31, 2020.
“This is a huge victory for southwest Michigan’s students and for students across the United States. Without these waivers, there would have been students in need who would not be able to access healthy and nutritious meals,” Upton said. “Our students should be able to focus on their education without having to worry about where their next meal will come from. I want to thank the U.S. Department of Agriculture for stepping up and working with us and our community to care for all of our students.”
“As our nation reopens and people return to work, it remains critical our children continue to receive safe, healthy, and nutritious food. During the COVID-19 pandemic, USDA has provided an unprecedented amount of flexibilities to help schools feed kids through the school meal programs, and today, we are also extending summer meal program flexibilities for as long as we can, legally and financially,” said Secretary Perdue. “We appreciate the incredible efforts by our school foodservice professionals year in and year out, but this year we have an unprecedented situation. This extension of summer program authority will employ summer program sponsors to ensure meals are reaching all children – whether they are learning in the classroom or virtually – so they are fed and ready to learn, even in new and ever-changing learning environments.”
Specifically, USDA is extending nationwide waivers for the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and Seamless Summer Option (SSO). USDA has already granted waivers related to meal times, non-congregate feeding, meal pattern, parent/guardian pickup, offer versus serve flexibility for senior high schools, as well as the monitoring programs associated with those waivers. The Administration also recently granted a waiver allowing Michigan to fully utilize the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program.