WASHINGTON, D.C. (KCAU) – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced a range of nationwide flexibilities to ensure America’s children receive the nutritious food they need throughout the upcoming school year on Thursday.
The waivers will give states, schools, and childcare providers time to plan for how they will serve children in the fall, including allowing for new and innovative feeding options as the nation recovers from the pandemic.
“As the country re-opens and schools prepare for the fall, a one-size-fits-all approach to meal service simply won’t cut it. The flexibilities announced today gives states, schools, and child care providers the certainty they need to operate the USDA child nutrition programs in ways that make sense given their local, on-the-ground situations and ensure America’s children can count on meal service throughout the school year,” Secretary Perdue said.
As fall approaches, schools will be considering many different learning models, according to officials.
This announcement from Secretary Perdue empowers schools to operate the School Breakfast Program (SBP) and National School Lunch Program (NSLP) to best serve their students throughout the 2020-2021 school year.
This will also allow providers in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) to adjust operations to serve the children in their care.
The USDA is providing flexibilities around meal patterns, group-setting requirements, meal service times, and parent/guardian pick-up of meals for kids across all three programs to address anticipated changes for the coming school year.
The USDA is also announcing new flexibility that waives the requirement for high schools to provide students the option to select some of the foods offered in a meal.
This practice, known as “offer versus serve”, is encouraged, social distancing or meals-in-the-classroom models would make this regulatory requirement.
Altogether, these waivers reduce barriers to meal service options that support a transition back to normal operations while simultaneously responding to evolving local conditions.
The following nationwide waivers will remain in effect through June 30, 2021, for the SBP, NSLP, and CACFP with flexibilities allowing for:
- Meals that do not meet normal meal pattern requirements when necessary to keep kids fed.
- Meals to be served outside of group settings and outside of standard times to facilitate grab-and-go and other alternate service options.
- Parent/guardian pick-up of meals for students participating in distance learning.
The new waiver applies to the NSLP’s “offer versus serve” requirement for high schools, which would be difficult to execute while maintaining social distancing, particularly if meals are prepackaged for in-classroom or grab-and-go service, according to officials.