Statement attributable to Luis Guardia, President, Food Research & Action Center (FRAC)
WASHINGTON, March 31, 2022 — The Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) commends Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) for introducing a bill, the Support Kids Not Red Tape Act, that will enable children to maintain continued access to child nutrition programs as families, schools, afterschool and summer programs, and child care providers recover from and respond to the economic, health, and educational fallout from the pandemic.
Congress previously gave the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) the authority to issue nationwide child nutrition waivers through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which has allowed school nutrition programs, local government agencies, and nonprofit organizations to keep feeding children in the face of numerous challenges such as school closures, virtual learning, and the need to social distance.
A recent USDA survey found that nearly 90 percent of school districts used the Seamless Summer Option (SSO) waiver to serve meals for the school year 2021-2022, which allows schools to offer all students meals at no charge and has provided higher reimbursement rates which have been needed to support nutrition finances during the pandemic.
FRAC and nearly 2,000 national, state, and local organizations from every state across the country, and the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, have urged Congress to swiftly extend USDA authority to issue nationwide waivers for the Child Nutrition Programs beyond this school year.
Without Congressional action, the waivers are set to expire on June 30, 2022.
This new bill would allow USDA to equip program providers with the flexibilities needed to meet the rise in food insecurity and supply them with much-needed relief by allocating additional funding to support nutrition finances.
Sen. Stabenow’s legislation is already receiving bi-partisan support from Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), signaling the urgent need to extend USDA waiver authority as families and the nation recover from the pandemic. FRAC urges the Senate to swiftly pass this bill – and the House to pass a similar bipartisan bill, H.R.6613: Keeping School Meals Flexible Act, on any legislative vehicle that is quickly moving through Congress.
Quick action is needed to reach families as they continue to face the economic hardships of the pandemic this fall.
The Food Research & Action Center improves the nutrition, health, and well-being of people struggling against poverty-related hunger in the United States through advocacy, partnerships, and by advancing bold and equitable policy solutions. To learn more, visit FRAC.org and follow us on Twitter and on Facebook.