Blog

Your Education Road Map

Politics K-12®

ESSA. Congress. State chiefs. School spending. Elections. Education Week reporters keep watch on education policy and politics in the nation’s capital and in the states. Read more from this blog.

Student Well-Being

Citing Pandemic, USDA Waives School Meal Regulations Through June 2022

By Evie Blad — April 20, 2021 2 min read
Jefferson County Elementary School children sit at desks and eat their school-supplied breakfasts in Fayette, Miss., on March 3, 2021. As one of the most food insecure counties in the United States, many families and their children have come to depend on these meals as their only means of daily sustenance.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will extend waivers from some school nutrition regulations through June 2022, the agency announced Tuesday.

That flexibility will allow schools to more easily serve students as they adjust schedules, seating arrangements, social distancing, and classroom cohorts to mitigate the risks created by the COVID-19 pandemic, officials said. For some schools, that means serving schools outside of cafeteria settings, even as students learn in-person.

The waivers will also allow schools to continue distributing meals to students who are learning remotely without red tape that can make it logistically difficult to do so.

The USDA first issued meal waivers during massive school closures in spring 2020. Officials have extended them several times since.

The latest extension is another sign that the pandemic may continue to affect school operations well into the next academic year, even as a nationwide vaccination campaign leads many public officials to ease restrictions on schools and businesses.

“As we look ahead to next school year, we know that even as the nation recovers, school nutrition professionals will continue to face challenges in their work,” the agency said in a notice to states. “State and local officials are working hard to plan for the new school year, and [the USDA] recognizes that providing flexibility will support their extraordinary efforts.”

Through the extended waivers, schools can serve meals through the seamless summer option during the academic year. That will allow them to provide universal free meals to students without verifying their eligibility for federal programs. Federal officials also increased meal reimbursement rates for participating schools.

The agency will also allow schools to request waivers from nutrition standards and mandated meal patterns, which dictate levels of whole grains, salt, and fresh fruit and vegetables that must be served at certain grade levels over the course of a week.

In addition, the waivers will allow schools to distribute food offsite directly to parents, even if their children aren’t present when they pick up the meals.

The moves were praised by the School Nutrition Association, an organization that represents school food workers and had pushed for extended flexibility.

“School nutrition staff can focus on safely serving students without having to worry about meal applications or collecting payments,” SNA President Reggie Ross said in a statement. “Families struggling to make ends meet will know their children are nourished and ready to learn.”

The actions come on top of food aid created through the American Rescue Plan, which increased Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Benefits and extended the Pandemic EBT program that provides targeted nutrition assistance for families of children who qualify for free school meals.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class
Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Student Well-Being Opinion What 9/11 Can Teach Us Today
We can only guess at what weighs on other people. Hurts and wounds are not always visible on the outside.
Pamela Cantor
1 min read
Images shows a stylized artistic landscape with soothing colors.
Getty
Student Well-Being Opinion Educators, Be Future-Ready, But Don’t Ignore the Present
Being ready for what lies ahead is important, but we also need to gain a better understanding of the here and now.
5 min read
shutterstock 226918177
Shutterstock
Student Well-Being Opinion How to Prioritize Student Well-Being This Year
Use the Student Thriving Index to find out where your kids stand. Because you cannot manage what you cannot measure.
2 min read
Images shows a stylized artistic landscape with soothing colors.
Getty
Student Well-Being Spotlight Spotlight on Supporting Teachers & Students
In this Spotlight, evaluate your district and what supports your schools offer, assess attendance policies to avoid burnout, and more