Free School Lunches Extended Through June 2022
The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced this week that it will extend the free school-lunch program for K-12 students until June 30, 2022. That means students in K-12 will receive free meals, which can be served outside of the times and settings usually required.
Students do not need to visit a cafeteria to receive lunch. Parents or guardians can pick up school lunches for students who are distance learning. The USDA is also allowing waivers for meal pattern requirements, adding flexibility in menu planning to school lunch programs.
The program is an extension of last year’s National School Lunch Program Seamless Summer Option provided by the USDA. “Students’ success in the classroom goes hand in hand with their ability to access basic needs like healthy and nutritious meals,” Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a statement. “It’s critical that our efforts to reopen schools quickly and safely include programs that provide access to free, healthy meals for our most vulnerable students, particularly those whose communities have been hardest hit by the pandemic. This program will ensure more students, regardless of their educational setting, can access free, healthy meals as more schools reopen their doors for in-person learning.”
The program is permitting schools across the country to serve meals through the SSO year-round, not just during the summer, according to a press release issued by the USDA. Meals will emphasize fruits and vegetables, milk, whole grains and the appropriate calories for growing children.
Schools that choose this option will receive higher-than-normal meal reimbursements for each meal, which will help them manage operational costs associated with the pandemic, the USDA release says.
As many as 12 million children live in households facing food insecurity during the pandemic.
In addition to free school lunches, the program enables schools and child care institutions to serve breakfast and afterschool snacks at flexible times and in non-group settings.
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