Congress members from Virginia urge USDA to ensure children can access meals amid COVID-19

Coronavirus

FILE – In this Wednesday, July 10, 2019 file photo, 6-year-old elementary school students go through the lunch line in the school’s cafeteria in Paducah, Ky. Nearly a million students could lose their automatic eligibility for free school lunches under a Trump administration proposal that’s expected to reduce the number of people who get food stamps. In October 2019, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has released an analysis finding as many as 982,000 children could be affected by the change. (Ellen O’Nan/The Paducah Sun via AP)

WASHINGTON (WAVY) — U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, in addition to U.S. Reps. Robert Wittman, Gerry Connolly, Don Beyer, A. Donald McEachin, Elaine Luria, and Jennifer Wexton, sent a letter to ensure children in Virginia have access to healthy foods during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Their proposal would ensure that children participating in distance learning from home will have access to school-provided breakfast and lunch.

In the letter to the USDA secretary, the leaders requested that USDA extend and approve a number of waiver requests made by the Commonwealth of Virginia that would help deliver food to Virginia children during the pandemic.

Virginia’s 132 school divisions have continued to provide meals for students through a number of meal service options throughout the pandemic.

Lawmakers say the shift has increased costs for schools, as well as increased costs related to the need for more shelf-stable foods, packaging, and personal protective equipment.

Participation in the school breakfast program has decreased by 35 percent and the number of school lunches served has dropped by 60 percent, according to statistics.

The members of Congress requested that USDA extend waivers for the Summer Food Service Program and the Seamless Summer Option until at least June 30, 2021.

This will ensure that all students can have a safe and easy access to breakfast and lunch.

The Congress members also asked for the extension of the Area Eligibility waiver, which would continue to allow school districts to provide nutritious meals to all students regardless of their ability to pay and increase critically-needed reimbursements to school divisions.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has forced school districts across the country to adopt online and distance-learning models in order to continue educational instruction for students. This shift, while necessary, has disrupted the ability of many students to receive consistent access to healthy meals. For many children, the breakfasts and lunches they receive at school may be the only healthy and regular meals they receive during the week,” wrote the members of Congress.

Click here to view the full letter.


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