Thanks to a decision this week by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), all parents–including those who may be facing financial uncertainty–won’t have to worry about how to pay for their children’s meals at school for a while.
The extension of free meals through June 30, 2021, also means that school breakfast and lunch program staff will be have more time and energy to focus on promoting health and safety, maintaining staffing and dealing with other concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic as it effect schools.
From March through August, Pennsylvania schools provided more than 25 million meals to children in need.
“I am so glad that the USDA has taken this important step in guaranteeing that no child has to wonder where they might find their next meal,” said Pennsylvania First Lady Frances Wolf in a news release about the department’s decision. “This is one piece of the puzzle for ensuring food security, and we look forward to continuing to work with USDA on the implementation of this and related efforts.”
Frances Wolf recently advocated alongside 17 first partners and spouses from other states to ensure that schools can continue to provide free meals despite the uncertainty caused by the pandemic.
According to recent projections by the hunger relief organization Feeding America, more than 54 million people–including 18 million children–may experience food insecurity this year. That number would represent a 45 percent increase in general food security rates and a 65 percent increase in child food insecurity rates when compared with pre-COVID-19 statistics.
Approximately 2 million Pennsylvanians–including nearly 630,000 children–are now facing food insecurity, according to recent estimates.
“With the USDA’s extension of the school feeding program waivers, students are promised access to nutritious food for the rest of the school year,” said Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding.
“Whether students are learning from home, at the school or a mix of both, these flexibilities will keep kids fed,” Redding added. “Hungry kids can’t learn. Because of programs like this, no Pennsylvania student should go hungry.”