End-of-pandemic-era free lunches could mean more hungry children in schools, advocates warn

The upcoming end of pandemic-era school meal rules will mean fewer free school meals for children from this summer, advocates warn.

With widespread school closures in March 2020, the federal government waived a number of its usual rules to allow things like “takeout” meals that families could eat when schools were closed.

The waivers have also allowed now-reopened schools to provide free school meals to all children – which advocates say is good for starving children and reduces a huge administrative burden for schools and parents who don’t have not have to deal with the paperwork for the program.

Hunger advocates say that while schools have mostly reopened now, rule changes are still significant due to pandemic-induced supply chain disruptions, rising food costs and labor shortages.

“We still need to do everything we can to fight hunger and make sure children don’t go hungry. And that’s what these waivers do. They help us feed children who would otherwise go hungry,” said Adam Morgan, advocacy coordinator for the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.

But all of that will end on June 30, unless Congress acts to extend the waivers; it did not as part of a larger spending bill passed last month.

“We are disappointed that we were unable to secure the resources and flexibilities needed to help school lunches and summer feeding programs deal with the severe challenges they face,” a department spokesperson said. American Agriculture. “Schools have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic to ensure children in their communities continue to have healthy and nutritious meals to eat. And the administration will continue to do everything in its power to support the leaders running these programs during this difficult time. »

Not extending rule changes means ‘millions of children [will] face a hunger cliff when they lose access to summer and school meals,” Luis Guardia, president of the Food Research & Action Center, said in a statement.

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