At Congressman Tim Ryan’s Urging, USDA Reverses Course to Allow Free Meals for Children | Congressman Tim Ryan
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At Congressman Tim Ryan’s Urging, USDA Reverses Course to Allow Free Meals for Children

September 1, 2020
Press Release

Washington, DC – Congressman Tim Ryan (OH-13) today is applauding the actions of the US Department of Agriculture to extend waivers allowing for all children to receive free school meals until the end of the year. 

After growing pressure from Congressman Ryan and his congressional colleagues, US Department of Agriculture Secretary Perdue reversed course this week and will allow waivers for the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and Seamless Summer Option (SSO) to continue through the end of this year. Congress voted in February 2020 to authorize the use of these waivers in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, and they have been a key resource for schools across the country to provide meals to children during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In a recent letter Ryan lead, the lawmakers wrote, “The flexibility to operate SFSP and SSO is essential for schools to continue serving children when school buildings are not accessible…and they provide critical administrative relief for already over-burdened school staff.” Ryan and lawmakers were critical of Secretary Perdue’s first attempts to not extend these waivers saying, “As we discussed in our letter to you on August 7, 2020, your decision not to extend these waivers will make it more difficult, if not impossible, for school meal programs to continue to operate this fall, and for families to access nutritious meals for their children. Further, neglecting to extend these waivers will exacerbate the already perilous financial situation school meal programs are facing.”

“I am pleased that the Trump Administration has heeded our calls and will now allow schools the flexibility to continue serving free meals to children as we enter the fall months, and I hope it is something he will extend for the remainder of the school year as well,” said Congressman Ryan. “What is more important than feeding our children? Let’s help children to learn by not having them or their parents worrying about where their next meal is coming from.”

“As our district embarks on all remote learning the challenge is to get good nutrition to all of the students,” said Tascin Brooks, the Chief of Food Service for the Youngstown City School District. “We will be able to continue with the weekly distribution of five breakfasts and five lunches for not only our school age scholars but now their younger siblings will receive proper nutrition as well. At this time of food insecurity, the extension of this program will let us ensure good nutrition with a wider availability to reach all children ages 1-18. As an example of how important these programs are to our children, the Youngstown City School District was able to serve 386,931 meals between March and July under 2019-2020 Summer Food Service Program. The continuation of this program is vital to ensuring that all of our children receive the nutrition assistance that they need.”

“The announcement today from the USDA to extend the summer meal program into fall will positively impact the students and families of Niles City Schools,” said Ann Marie Thigpen, Superintendent of Niles City School District. “Our students are learning either remotely or in-person and to know that our students will have healthy and nutritious meals available to them will be one less stress for families to deal with. Along with educating our students, making sure our students are well-fed is top priority for us and this announcement from the Federal government is greatly appreciated from our entire educational community.”

USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is extending a suite of nationwide waivers for the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and Seamless Summer Option (SSO) through the end of 2020, or until available funding runs out.  This includes:

  • Allowing SFSP and SSO meals to be served in all areas and at no cost;
  • Permitting meals to be served outside of the typically-required group settings and meal times;
  • Waiving meal pattern requirements as necessary; and
  • Allowing parents and guardians to pick-up meals for their children.

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