Congress signs bipartisan deal to extend child feeding waivers | Education News

Congress reached a bipartisan bicameral agreement Tuesday to extend summer child feeding waivers into 2022-2023 that has proven crucial in allowing schools to serve meals to students and tide over disruptions linked to the pandemic.

“With 90% of our schools still facing challenges as they return to their normal operations, this will provide our schools and summer meal programs with much-needed support to deal with ongoing food service issues,” said Senator Debbie Stabeno, the Michigan Democrat and chair of the committee. Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry in a statement. “Congress needs to act quickly to pass this critical aid.”

Ongoing supply chain disruptions, inflation and rising gas prices have disrupted school feeding teams this school year — and it follows a year defined by pandemic-related disruptions that required them to be creative to ensure students are fed, particularly in the communities where you live. overwhelming food insecurity.

Nutritional exemptions that were It is due to expire at the end of June.It provided schools with generous reimbursement rates and flexibility in complying with meal patterns and nutritional standards requirements. School feeding directors say the waivers have been critical in allowing school meal programs to operate at all in light of the unexpected landscape.

a Report Published last month by the Center for Food Research Action shows that of the 62 largest school districts in the country, 95% said waivers helped reduce child hunger in their school district, and over 80% also said waivers made it easier for parents, The stigma associated with receiving free school meals, facilitating administrative work and supporting academic achievement has been removed.

The $3 billion deal was brokered by Stabbino, Republican Senator John Bozeman of Arkansas, the ranking member of the Agriculture Committee, Democratic Representative Bobby Scott of Virginia, chair of the House Education and Labor Committee, and Republican Representative Virginia Fox of North. Carolina, the prominent member of that committee.

“During my visit with the schools’ nutritionists, it was abundantly clear that they need ongoing flexibility to deal with ongoing supply chain issues,” Bozeman said in a statement. “I am pleased that after protracted bipartisan negotiations we were able to reach an agreement to extend the waivers in a way that will be paid for in full.”

The legislation would allow students eligible for reduced-price meals to receive free meals, and increase federal amounts for each school lunch by 40 cents and each school breakfast by 15 cents. It would also increase flexibility for schools unable to meet certain nutritional standards due to supply chain disruptions, as well as extend existing waivers for summer meal programs to 2022.

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“School dietitians have withstood supply chain disruptions, price hikes and labor shortages in their efforts to provide students with healthy meals, at a time when families struggle with rising costs,” says Beth Wallace, president of the School Nutrition Association. “With the end of critical federal waivers approaching, this agreement provides school meal programs a lifeline to help return to normal operations.”

The agreement follows intense lobbying efforts by school feeding groups, state education chiefs, district administrators, principals, school feeding directors, teachers and community organizations, who have collectively sent tens of thousands of letters over the past two months urging them to do so. Extension of exemptions, which were first enacted at the start of the pandemic.

The letters describe the ongoing struggle to get enough food and supplies for students, as manufacturers have stopped products ranging from low-sodium chicken breast to low-fat milk and yogurt. School feeding managers report shortages of up to 150 to 200 menu items per order, sending school feeding teams with a few staff members scrambling to secure replacements, as well as unprecedented price increases, including a 280% increase in the cost of a case Types of sanitary gloves used by kitchen workers and a 137% increase on whole grain bread.

“We are grateful to have reached an agreement to help address the daunting challenges facing schools and community organizations that are working tirelessly to feed children this summer and during the school year,” says Lisa Davis, Senior Vice President of Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry Campaign. . “This issue couldn’t be more urgent with waivers expiring in nine days and summer meal programs already in the works.”

Congress is expected to pass the legislation this week, in time to avoid the waivers expiring on June 30.