July 12, 2022
On June 25, the Keep Kids Fed Act was signed into law, giving U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) the temporary authority to extend many of the nationwide child nutrition waivers that have been so important during the pandemic. These waivers were set to expire on June 30 without Congressional action.
An overview of what the act will mean for summer 2022 as well as school and afterschool meals during the 2022-2023 school year is detailed below.
The Keep Kids Fed Act allows USDA to extend many of the nationwide summer flexibilities that have been available during the previous two summers. Before this broad extension, states could individually request operational waivers (such as serving non-congregate meals) for summer 2022 if COVID-19 was impacting the ability of sponsors to operate the summer programs. Recognizing that summer is in full swing and even winding down in many states, USDA has worked quickly to issue nationwide waivers that are effective immediately for states that choose to opt in. The waivers include:
- Area Eligibility, which allows meals to be offered through the Summer Nutrition Programs at sites that do not meet the 50 percent area eligibility requirement;
- Meal Times, which allows meals to be served outside traditional times to maximize flexibility for meal pickup;
- Non-Congregate Feeding, which allows meals to be served in a non-group setting (i.e., allowing for “grab and go” and delivered meals);
- Parent/Guardian Pick-Up, which allows parents or guardians to pick up meals without children being present;
- SFSP Reimbursement for Meals Served Under SSO, which allows schools operating the Seamless Summer Option (SSO) to receive the higher Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) reimbursement for meals served this summer; and
- Eligibility for Closed-Enrolled Sites, which allows all closed-enrolled sites to participate without individually qualifying each child.
School Year 2022–2023
The school meals provisions in the act are more limited when compared to summer but do include several key opportunities to support school food authorities and afterschool sponsors. These include:
- a 15 cents increase in school breakfast and 40 cents increase in school lunch reimbursements served during the 2022–2023 school year;
- allowing states to not assess financial penalties for meals that do not meet meal patterns due to supply chain disruptions; and
- a 10 cents increase in reimbursement for afterschool meals snacks.
USDA Food and Nutrition Service does not plan to issue nationwide waivers of the non-congregate requirement or meal pattern for the 2022–2023 school year. School districts that are impacted by COVID-19 can work with their state agency to submit a waiver of these requirements if necessary.
What Is NOT Included in the Keep Kids Fed Act?
Congress did not give USDA the authority to issue waivers that increased cost to the federal government for school year 2022–2023. This means that schools will not be able to offer free to all children or receive the higher Summer Food Service Program reimbursement for meals served. Instead, meals must be claimed at the paid, free, and reduced-price categories, even if the district is operating a non-congregate meal service due to the pandemic. FRAC and many of our partners are calling on Congress to provide this waiver authority (in addition to expanding community eligibility and creating a nationwide Summer EBT program) in the budget reconciliation that is currently being negotiated by the Senate.
Additional Support for School Districts
USDA also announced that $934 million in funding has been made available to support school food authorities in purchasing unprocessed and minimally processed domestic foods. This is the second round of funding that has been made available to address supply chain issues. A memo detailing the allocation of funds to states will be available soon. This funding is being provided through administrative action and is not included in the act.
Resources and Next Steps
Anti-hunger advocates and state child nutrition agencies should work quickly to ensure that summer sponsors are aware of the available flexibilities so they can leverage them for this summer.
On July 7, FRAC joined USDA along with national partners to provide a webinar on these waivers. Access a recording to this webinar.
For more information on the waivers, check out FRAC’s Nationwide Waivers Tracker.