Dear Mr. Secretary:
The Urban School Food Alliance, representing many of the largest school food authorities in the nation, sincerely appreciates the action you took on August 31 to extend several school food program waivers through December 31, 2020. The Alliance respectfully urges you to immediately extend these waivers through the balance of this new school year, as you previously did for a number of other school food requirements.
As you know, the President has signed into law the Continuing Appropriations Act, 2021 and Other Extensions Act (Public Law No: 116-159). Sec. 4602 of Title VI, Division D, extends through FY2021 authority for USDA to allow certain waivers to requirements for its food and nutrition programs due to COVID-19, including waivers under the National School Lunch Program. We respectfully urge you to use this authority to immediately extend through SY 20-21 the waivers you approved on August 31, including: (1) allowing SFSP and SSO meals to be served in all areas and at no cost; (2) permitting meals to be served outside of the typically-required group settings and meal times; (3) waiving meal pattern requirements as necessary; and (4) allowing parents and guardians to pick-up meals for their children.
Alliance members and all school food authorities need to have these waivers announced as soon as possible so that they can plan for the full school year. You certainly are kept apprised of changing school food operations across the nation as some schools open, some operate remotely, some operate in hybrid fashion, and some adjust to changing circumstances that have come to be expected. School food authorities simply cannot start up, shut down, or modify operations on a moment’s notice without jeopardizing the continued provision of nutritious school meals to millions of our nation’s elementary and secondary school students.
We do recognize the outstanding work that has been done by the Food and Nutrition Service since last March, and we want to work together with FNS to provide the best possible meals for our students. Flexibilities are urgently needed for this school year to allow us time to assess best practices and to responsibly prepare for the next school year.
We look forward to your response.
Dr. Kathryn Wilson, SNS
Urban School Food Alliance