WASHINGTON- U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen (both D-Md.) today applauded the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) decision to extend the critical school nutrition programs through the end of the 2020-2021 school year. This decision comes after extensive public pressure and multiple requests from Congress, including explicit authority grants in the recent Continuing Resolution, HR.8337, which allocated specific funding to extend the waivers. This decision will allow all students, including those in remote learning, to continue to access healthy and regular meals during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Families and children continue to bear the severe consequences of this pandemic. No child should go hungry or have to worry about when their next meal may come. I am delighted that the Department of Agriculture has accepted our request to extend waivers on the school nutrition programs through the end of the 2020-2021 school year,” said Senator Cardin. “The extension of these administrative waivers provides certainty to our local school systems that have been working diligently to provide students with the meals they deserve, as well as guarantees our children access to nourishing and reliable meals throughout the remainder of the school year regardless of where they receive their educational services.”
“As the pandemic continues to take a devastating toll on Americans’ pocketbooks, many families are struggling to put food on their tables. During this time, school-provided meals are all the more important – even as many students learn from home. That’s why we’ve urged USDA to provide the flexibility necessary for our schools to continue these programs to meet the needs of our communities. I am glad to see USDA heed our call so that we can help reduce child hunger in Maryland and across the country,” said Senator Van Hollen.
“With schools delivering instruction to students both in-person and virtually during the Covid-19 pandemic, emergency meal sites throughout the State are providing reliable, healthy meals to Maryland’s school children during the school week,” said Karen B. Salmon, Ph.D., Maryland State Superintendent of Schools. “We appreciate the advocacy of Senators Cardin and Van Hollen and our federal partners at USDA for providing these critical waivers, as well as the innovation of our local school systems as we work together to secure the nutritional wellbeing of students during this unprecedented time.”
Senators Cardin and Van Hollen previously joined 34 of their Senate colleagues in a July letter to Secretary Sonny Perdue urging USDA to maintain the school nutrition meal program, regardless of the student’s learning environment. Lawmakers followed up in a second letter in September to USDA to extend the school meal waivers. The failure to extend the waivers for the duration of the 2020-2021 school year would have significantly harmed the ability of local school districts and nutrition providers to distribute federally reimbursed meals, as well as placed additional burdens on food-insecure families. In September, more than 4.1 million meals were distributed to students at 1,800 feeding sites across the state.