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Source: United States House of Representatives – Representative David Trone

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Hannah Muldavin, Hannah.Muldavin@mail.house.gov 

U.S. Reps. David Trone, Don Young, Lead 54 Bipartisan Members of Congress to Urge USDA to Waive Restrictions on Access to School Meals Across the Country

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Representatives David Trone (D-MD) and Don Young (R-AK) announced they sent a bipartisan letter signed by 56 Members of Congress to urge the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to grant waiver requests from schools across the country to administer meals to children and families in need during the COVID-19 global pandemic.

Following the COVID-19 outbreak, states submitted waivers to the USDA in order to relieve a number of restrictions that would allow them to continue providing meals for students and families. Waivers could include any part of state operations, from meal limitations to transportation restrictions.

Specifically, the Members urged the USDA to approve all waivers they’ve received from states that strengthen and extend child nutrition programs amid the coronavirus pandemic. They also pressed the USDA to waive area eligibility requirements nationwide, meaning every student in the United States would be able to access free school meals.

“With schools and work shut down across the country, more students and families are relying on school nutrition programs than ever before,” said Congressman David Trone. “During this unprecedented crisis, we must come together to make sure every child in America can access healthy meals and our state and local partners have the federal support to make that happen. I want to thank Representative Young and all of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for working in a bipartisan way to support children and families across the country who need it most.”

“As a former school teacher, I know that if kids are not eating, they are not learning,” said Congressman Don Young. “COVID-19 has shined a spotlight on the importance of childhood nutrition, both in school and at home. Our nation’s nutrition programs are critical to the success of the next generation, and our nation’s future as a whole. I am proud to join Congressman Trone on this important effort to ensure that the Department of Agriculture is doing all that it can to provide our children access to proper nutrition during this unprecedented time.”

Reps. Trone and Young were joined by 54 other Members in sending the letter, including: Joseph D. Morelle (D-NY), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Tony Cárdenas (D-CA), Jerry McNerney (D-CA), Danny K. Davis (D-IL), Bobby L. Rush (D-IL), Anthony G. Brown (D-MD), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Derek Kilmer (D-WA), Bill Foster (D-IL), Jackie Speier (D-CA), Brian Fitzpatrick  (R-PA), Suzan DelBene (D-WA), Marcia L. Fudge (D-OH), James P. McGovern (D-MA), Chris Pappas (D-NH), Jennifer Wexton (D-VA), Joe Neguse  (D-CO), Sylvia R. Garcia (D-TX), Madeleine Dean (D-PA), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), David N. Cicilline (D-RI), Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA), Conor Lamb (D-PA), Kim Schrier, M.D. (D-WA), Tom Malinowski (D-NJ), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), Seth Moulton (D-MA), Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Brendan F. Boyle  (D-PA), Jared Huffman  (D-CA), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), John Katko (R-NY), Chris Stewart (R-UT), Jason Crow (D-CO), Thomas R. Suozzi (D-NY), Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY), André Carson  (D-IN), Steven Horsford (D-NV), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ), Adam Smith (D-WA), Ben McAdams (D-UT), Emanuel Cleaver II (D-MO), Angie Craig (D-MN), William R. Keating (D-MA), Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ), Joseph P. Kennedy, III (D-MA), Susan A. Davis (D-CA), Ed Case (D-HI), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Denny Heck (D-WA), and Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ).

You can see a copy of the letter here.

See below for the text of the letter:

Dear Secretary Perdue:

We appreciate the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service’s (USDA FNS) efforts to ensure children have access to nutritious food during the COVID-19 pandemic through the issuance of nationwide waivers and guidance to get Pandemic EBT swiftly implemented after the passage of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. As more families feel the economic impact of the crisis, we urge you to continue to issue nationwide waivers to respond to the growing need, including a nationwide area eligibility waiver, and to extend the child nutrition waivers past June 30, to ease the administrative burden on State child nutrition agencies as well as Food and Nutrition Services staff. Specifically, we ask that you:

  • Continue to address the new challenges states are facing and issue nationwide waivers for all requests that USDA has already received that strengthen or expand child nutrition benefits. The initial set of nationwide waivers were incredibly helpful, but there is still more to be done to respond to the growing need. States, schools, and community stakeholders have been on the frontline responding to the crisis. They have the best understanding of the challenges and barriers being faced. The waivers that states have submitted are critical to easing administrative barriers and allowing meals to be served. These should be made available nationwide to allow an easier administrative process while allowing for continued oversight.
     
  • Extend the area eligibility waiver nationwide. While a majority of states have received an area eligibility waiver over the past two weeks, they vary greatly. In every state, it is an administrative challenge for schools and sponsors to identify children who have been certified for free or reduced-price school meals, especially in rural areas. In addition, with each passing day, more children are becoming eligible for free school meals. With schools closed there are significant barriers for newly eligible families to be certified to receive free school meals.
     
  • Extend the deadlines for all nationwide waivers past the current expiration date of June 30, 2020. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act gave USDA the authority to issue nationwide waivers until September 30, 2020. We urge you extend the waivers to September 30 or until this public health emergency ends to give states, schools and community partners the flexibility they need to ensure low-income children have access to meals during this crisis.

We appreciate your consideration and encourage you to move quickly to ensure states have all the tools and security they need to respond to the current crisis.  

Sincerely,

In Congress, David Trone has made investing in school meal programs a top priority. Trone recently led a bipartisan effort, the CARE for Kids Act, to extend automatic eligibility for free school meals to certain vulnerable groups of children. Last summer, he took a tour of the district to highlight the importance of the Summer Meals Programs in schools, where he was joined by celebrity chef Bryan Voltaggio from Frederick. In his position on the Education and Labor Committee, he has supported several bills related to protecting and expanding school meal programs. 

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