Children will lose millions of meals when pandemic funds expire


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Once the waivers expire, schools will not be able to support children to the same extent.

Natalie Ramirez, Reporter

At the end of June, waivers allowing more flexibility for school food programs will expire. These waivers were part of the pandemic relief legislation, in which the federal Food and Nutrition services relinquished certain requirements. One being that schools must serve meals in a group setting. This allows more freedom to school food programs when preparing and packaging food.

In Burke County, a rural district in Georgia, Donna Martin is the head of the school nutrition program. “It was a game changer,” she says. Martin made many innovations during the pandemic that she says are worth keeping, however, the waivers played a crucial part in enabling those innovations. With the shortage of bus drivers and increase in gas prices, Martin further mentions, “We’re going to have to really cut back on the quality of the meals.”

“When you improve the ability for the country to deliver food to children, to families, you improve the health outcomes of Americans,” says physician and co-director of the Healthcare Transformation Institute at the University of Pennsylvania, Ezekiel Emanuel. However, there is not much that the U.S. Department of Agriculture can do about the waivers. The ability to renew waivers that are already in place lies with Congress. A number of people, including anti-hunger advocates and school nutrition professionals have come to the conclusion that Congress needs to take action. Lisa Davis, leader of the No Kid Hungry Campaign being done by Share Our Strength, states, “Congress failed kids, bottom line.”

While the waivers have been in place, schools have had more opportunities to reach and support kids facing vulnerable hunger positions. “We are disappointed that we weren’t able to secure needed resources and flexibilities to help school meals and summer feeding programs deal with the serious challenges they are facing,” expressed the USDA.