Gardner signs on to letter requesting continued school nutrition flexibility

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner is among the 20 Republican senators asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture to extend pandemic-related waivers granted to states for school nutrition programs serving low-income families.

“We appreciate USDA’s use of child nutrition program waiver authority, flexibility provided, and work with state agencies, schools and non-school sponsoring organizations to provide meals through various child nutrition programs when schools were unexpectedly closed in the spring. We also applaud the extension of these flexibilities through the summer months,” reads the letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue.

The department is able to waive certain requirements for federally-funded school meals programs consistent with legislation passed earlier this year. Those include dispensing with the mandate that meals be served in a group settings, allowing schools to modify times of service, and permitting schools to serve meals while the facilities experience an unanticipated closure.

The USDA has issued some nationwide waivers and has extended others for the 2020-2021 school year on a state-by-state basis. Colorado, for example, has received extensions for the service time and congregate feeding requirements. An estimated 22 million children are eligible to receive free and reduced-price meals, The Washington Post reports.

Three weeks ago, members of the Senate’s Democratic caucus, including U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, sent a similar request to Perdue with a list of requirements they would like to see waived.

“Additionally, it has come to our attention that under the current regulations, the transportation costs for delivering meals to low-income students are not reimbursed by the USDA,” the senators wrote. “While many school meal programs are managing these costs for the time-being, they cannot continue absorbing them for the foreseeable future. We ask that the USDA make additional funds available to schools to assist with the cost of delivering meals to low-income students until regular school operations are restored.”


By: Michael Karlik

Colorado Politics