The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food & Nutrition Service extended four nationwide child nutrition waivers and one new nationwide waiver to ensure that children receive the nutritious food they need during the upcoming school year. These waivers give states, schools and child care providers time to plan for how they will serve children in the fall, including allowing for new and innovative feeding options as the nation recovers from the coronavirus pandemic.
“As the country reopens and schools prepare for the fall, a one-size-fits-all approach to meal service simply won’t cut it,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said. “The flexibilities announced today give states, schools and child care providers the certainty they need to operate the USDA child nutrition programs in ways that make sense given their local, on-the-ground situations and ensure America’s children can count on meal service throughout the school year.”
As fall nears, schools are considering many different learning models. This announcement empowers them to operate the School Breakfast Program (SBP) and National School Lunch Program (NSLP) to best serve their students throughout the 2020-21 school year. It also allows providers in the Child & Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) to tailor operations to serve the children in their care. USDA is providing flexibilities around meal patterns, group setting requirements, meal service times and parent/guardian pickup of meals for kids across all three programs to address anticipated changes for the coming school year.
The following nationwide waivers will remain in effect through June 30, 2021, for the SBP, NSLP and CACFP. These flexibilities allow for:
- Meals that do not meet normal meal pattern requirements when necessary to keep kids fed;
- Meals to be served outside of group settings and outside of standard times to facilitate grab-and-go and other alternate service options, and
- Parent/guardian pickup of meals for students participating in distance learning.
The new waiver applies to the NSLP’s “offer versus serve” requirement for high schools, which would be difficult to execute while maintaining social distancing, particularly if meals are prepackaged for in-classroom or grab-and-go service.
“I thank Secretary Perdue for providing certainty to school food service operators that flexibilities will remain available through the upcoming school year as they redesign the way meals are provided to children when schools reopen,” Senate Agriculture Committee chairman Pat Roberts (R., Kan.) said.