USDA approves student meal expansion during COVID-19 pandemic

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (WVNS) — The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved the expansion of access to meals for 200,000 students in West Virginia during the COVID-19 pandemic. Senator Joe Manchin applauded their decision on Monday, March 30, 2020.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is already affecting our students and their education through the closure of schools throughout our state and we must do everything possible to make sure these students don’t go hungry because they’re not in school. I applaud the USDA for their quick approval of these waivers which expand access to meals for students across America, including the 200,000 children in West Virginia who receive reduced price or free meals. We must continue to come together as a state to care for one another, and I will continue to fight for West Virginia to receive the necessary supplies, funding, and support during these difficult time.”

Senator Joe Manchin

Waivers approved by USDA:

·       Nationwide Meal Pattern Waiver – This waiver allows meals to be provided with the “best available food options. For example, if one of the nutritional requirement mandated meal items is unavailable food supply issues arise, the school system will be able to still serve meals with their “best available food options” for federal reimbursement.

·       Area Eligibility – The area eligibility provision deals with site eligibility requirements for Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and National School Lunch Program (NSLP) Seamless Summer Option (SSO). Under normal circumstances, “open sites” must be located in areas where at least 50% of NSLP participants are eligible for free or reduced price meals. This waiver now allows SSO and SFSP sponsors in good standing to operate “open sites” in areas approved by WVDE that do not hit this 50% threshold so they can reach more children who rely on meals during the school year. Open sites are where all children eat free in the communities where at least 50% of the children are eligible for free or reduced lunch.

·       Nationwide Afterschool Activity Waiver – This waiver allows eligible schools and at-risk afterschool care centers to serve meals and snacks without having to provide an “educational or enrichment activity” as typically required to meet program guidelines.

·       Nationwide Waivers of Child Nutrition Monitoring – USDA released on Friday night 5 different National Waivers for site monitoring requirements typically in place during non-emergency situations. These waivers are for certain monitoring requirements for sponsors and State Agencies of Child and Adult Care Food Programs, onsite monitoring requirements for School Meals Programs and SFSP by state agencies and sponsoring organizations.

For more information regarding the COVID-19 pandemic you can visit Senator Manchin’s website.

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