July 31, 2020

Reed & Whitehouse Call for Extension of School Meal Flexibilities for Upcoming School Year

Waivers have allowed RIDE and partners to serve over one million meals and snacks to students since March

Providence, RI – U.S. Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) have joined U.S. Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Susan Collins (R-ME), and 32 of their colleagues in urging the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to continue flexibilities that have allowed students to keep receiving daily meals throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, even as schools transitioned to distance learning. If extended through the 2020-2021 school year, children would maintain access to nutritious meals regardless of school opening status, and struggling school nutrition programs would benefit from additional financial relief. These waivers and flexibilities have allowed the Rhode Island Department of Education and their partners to serve over a million meals and snacks to students since March.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has forced schools around the country to close their buildings and shift instruction to online and distance-learning models,” the Senators wrote in a letter to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue. “For many children, school breakfast and lunch may be the only healthy and regular meals they receive.”

The Senators continued, “The economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has also resulted in millions of parents losing their jobs, and millions more students will be dependent on school-provided meals. School meal program directors must begin procuring food, equipment, and supplies and placing orders now in preparation for the upcoming school year.”

To help ensure school meal program directors and staff have the certainty that they need to begin preparing for the upcoming school year, the Senators are urging the USDA to extend a variety of waivers that will help ensure low-income students can access school-provided meals throughout the upcoming school year.

Additionally, the Senators are calling on the USDA to reimburse schools for the transportation costs for delivering meals to low-income students: “While many school meal programs are managing these costs for the time-being, they cannot continue absorbing them for the foreseeable future. We ask that the USDA make additional funds available to schools to assist with the cost of delivering meals to low-income students until regular school operations are restored.”

The National School Lunch Program provides low-cost or free daily lunches to over 72,000 Rhode Island children.

Click here for the Senators’ full letter.

Press Contact

Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921