Virginia congressional delegation pushes USDA to extend critical food waivers
The USDA has formally extended critical food waivers until Dec. 31, 2020, in a move that will help make sure students have access to nutritious meals while schools districts participate in distance learning amid the current health crisis.
Back on Aug. 13, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA), along with U.S. Reps. Robert Wittman (R-VA), Gerry Connolly (D-VA), Don Beyer (D-VA), A. Donald McEachin (D-VA), Elaine Luria (D-VA), and Jennifer Wexton (D-VA), had written to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue to request the extension.
Virginia’s 132 school divisions have continued to provide meals for students through a number of meal service options. However, this shift has increased costs for schools, who are also facing decreased revenues due to diminished levels of participation in meal programs, as well as increased costs related to the need for more shelf-stable foods, packaging, and personal protective equipment.
Specifically, participation in the school breakfast program has decreased by 35 percent and the number of school lunches served has dropped by 60 percent.
In order to ensure the uninterrupted and safe distribution of meals to Virginia’s students, the members of Congress requested that USDA extend waivers for the Summer Food Service Program and the Seamless Summer Option until at least June 30, 2021 so that all students can have safe and efficient access to breakfast and lunch.
The members of Congress also asked for an extension of the Area Eligibility waiver, which would continue to allow school districts to provide nutritious meals to all students regardless of their ability to pay, as well as increase critically-needed reimbursements to school divisions and eliminate burdensome paperwork requirements that affect the ability of schools to provide meals to students.