The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Tuesday that it would continue flexibilities allowing for free meals for students within school meal programs and childcare facilities throughout the nation through June 30, 2022.
The continued support will allow schools and facilities to continue serving healthy food to the students in their communities going into the 2021-22 school year, which aligns with the current administration's commitment to "reopen schools safely," according to the announcement.
“USDA will remain relentless in ensuring our nation’s children get the critical nutrition they need,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “States and districts wanted waivers extended to plan for safe reopening in the fall. USDA answered the call to help America’s schools and childcare institutions serve high quality meals while being responsive to their local needs as children safely return to their regular routines. This action also increases the reimbursement rate to school meal operators so they can serve healthy foods to our kids. It’s a win-win for kids, parents and schools.”
Schools throughout the U.S. will be able to offer meals through the department's National School Lunch Program usually only available during the summer. The program maintains the same nutrition standards of many meal programs offered through local schools.
Facilities that choose to serve through the program will also recieve higher meal reimbursements for every meal served to help with providing students with healthy meals while keeping operational costs low.
“Students’ success in the classroom goes hand in hand with their ability to access basic needs like healthy and nutritious meals,” said Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “It’s critical that our efforts to reopen schools quickly and safely include programs that provide access to free, healthy meals for our most vulnerable students, particularly those whose communities have been hardest hit by the pandemic. This program will ensure more students, regardless of their educational setting, can access free, healthy meals as more schools reopen their doors for in-person learning.”
For more information on the program, visit the USDA's website.