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May 15, 2020

U.S. Rep. David Trone Secures Crucial USDA Waivers to Ensure Meals for Kids Continue Through Summer



U.S. Rep. David Trone Secures Crucial USDA Waivers to Ensure Meals for Kids Continue Through Summer

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Representatives David Trone (D-MD) and Don Young (R-AK) hailed an announcement that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will extend three nationwide waivers, which will allow child nutrition programs to continue feeding school-aged children during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Following the COVID-19 outbreak, states submitted waivers to the USDA in order to relieve a number of restrictions that would allow them to continue providing meals for students and families. Waivers could include any part of state operations, from meal limitations to transportation restrictions.

Trone and Young led a bipartisan coalition of more than 50 Members of Congress in urging the USDA to grant these waivers. Specifically, the Members urged the USDA to approve all waivers they’ve received from states that strengthen and extend child nutrition programs amid the coronavirus pandemic. They also pressed the USDA to waive area eligibility requirements nationwide, meaning every student in the United States would be able to access free meals during COVID-19 school closures. You can see a copy of the letter here.

Trone embarked on the effort to secure the waivers after holding a tele-roundtable with Maryland public school leaders in April, and on Tuesday, he introduced legislation to provide emergency funding to the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), a federal program that provides nutritious meals to qualifying children and adults.

“If a student is hungry, she cannot learn. It’s as simple as that,” said Congressman David Trone. “Maryland students and their parents are facing unprecedented challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. At a minimum, we have to ensure that our students have access to healthy meals while we ask them to learn from home. I am grateful that Congressman Young partnered with me on this effort, and I thank Secretary Perdue for responding to our request.”

“As a former teacher, I know that learning can only happen when our children have access to proper nutrition,” said Congressman Don Young. “As we head into the summer months, we must continue to ensure that our children have access to proper nutrition, particularly amid the COVID-19 pandemic. If school is being conducted at home, healthy meals must also be available to support our children. Tackling childhood hunger, especially during summer, has long been a priority of mine. This Congress, I’ve introduced the Summer Meals Act, which will help fill in the nutrition gaps that typically occur during the summer break. I am proud to have worked with Congressman David Trone on this critical issue of flexibility, and I want to thank Secretary Perdue and the Administration for providing this much-needed support for our nation’s future.”

Background from the USDA: 

Since March, USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) has made maximum use of existing program flexibilities and new authorities granted by Congress to make it as easy as possible for children to receive food through the department’s nutrition assistance programs during the national health emergency. Today’s announcement extends three key flexibilities that will allow current operations to continue without disruption and ensure states and program operators have time to plan for continued operations throughout the summer. 

Today, FNS is extending the following waivers nationwide through August 31, 2020:  

Non-Congregate Feeding: FNS is allowing meals to be served to children outside of the normally-required group setting to support social distancing.   

Parent Pickup: FNS is allowing parents and/or guardians to pick up meals and bring them home to their children.  

Meal Times: FNS is waiving requirements that meals be served at certain standard times to allow for grab-n-go options. This also allows for multiple days-worth of meals to be provided at once.  

In addition to granting significant program flexibilities through both nationwide and individual state waivers, FNS is rapidly approving states for Pandemic-EBT, which provides food-purchasing benefits, equal to the value of school meals, to households with children who would otherwise be receiving free or reduced-price meals at school. FNS has approved 26 plans and continues to review new plans as they are submitted. 

In Congress, David Trone has made investing in school meal programs a top priority. Trone recently led a bipartisan effort, the CARE for Kids Act, to extend automatic eligibility for free school meals to certain vulnerable groups of children. Last summer, he took a tour of the district to highlight the importance of the Summer Meals Programs in schools, where he was joined by celebrity chef Bryan Voltaggio from Frederick. In his position on the Education and Labor Committee, he has supported several bills related to protecting and expanding school meal programs.