USDA extends free school meals through June 2022

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Trays of food at a school cafeteria. (KOIN)

Schools and daycare facilities now have the ability to offer meals, free of charge, to children through June of 2022. The U.S. Department of Agriculture made the announcement earlier this week.

It’s all part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s plan to reopen schools safely.

The meal service flexibilities that help enable social distancing, including the free meals, are extended through June 30, 2022.

“USDA will remain relentless in ensuring our nation’s children get the critical nutrition they need,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in the news release posted to the USDA’s website. “States and districts wanted waivers extended to plan for safe reopening in the fall. USDA answered the call to help America’s schools and childcare institutions serve high quality meals while being responsive to their local needs as children safely return to their regular routines. This action also increases the reimbursement rate to school meal operators so they can serve healthy foods to our kids. It’s a win-win for kids, parents and schools.”

The schools that participate will also receive higher-than-normal meal reimbursements, which the USDA believes will help them serve the most nutritious meals possible while still managing the increased costs associated with pandemic related challenges.

“Students’ success in the classroom goes hand in hand with their ability to access basic needs like healthy and nutritious meals,” said Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “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.”

This plan also allows for flexible meal times and for parents or guardians to pick up meals for their children when school programs weren’t operating normally.

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