HAMBURG, N.Y. — An extension has now officially been passed by Congress and signed by President Joe Biden that will help schools keep kids fed for additional months to come.
At the onset of the pandemic, federal aid was offered to help school districts and families in the form of school meal waivers, one of which provided children with free meals regardless of income. Waivers were set to expire on June 30, but the extension now ensures free meals will be provided throughout the summer.
While more flexibility and funding is headed to school districts, daycares, and meal programs, free school meals for all are going away.
Mike Cornell is Superintendent of the Hamburg Central School District and says that he fully supports this extension and hopes to see it continue into the 2022-2023 school year.
"There is an awful lot of economic insecurity and uncertainty associated with what's happening in the world right now," Cornell says. "What this program really is, is an enormously powerful investment in making sure that 1 million of our school-aged kids are healthier and better cared for."
At the height of the pandemic, Congress authorized the United States Department of Agriculture to waive various school meal program requirements and increase reimbursement rates so that schools and other programs could continue feeding kids. As a result, millions of students got meals all year and summer long, notably those who needed them most.
"Food insecurity is often well disguised," Cornell emphasizes.
In 2020, the USDA estimated that 6.1 million kids lived in food insecure households.
Some of the benefits of extending school meal waivers into the summer include:
According to the USDA, 90% of school districts' food programs are depending on these waivers to offer free meals.