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Saturday, July 2, 2022

Students risk going hungry this summer. Congress may have a fix

For six months, school food workers have been pleading with Congress to extend the pandemic era food waiver, giving educators more flexibility in feeding children. If an expiration on June 30 is allowed, millions of children will be left without reliable access to food, and thousands of neighborhoods will have to continue to cover inflated food prices due to supply chain problems and labor shortages.

Just before this deadline, lawmakers may finally have a solution. The bipartisan Keep Kids Fed Act of 2022, a rethink of proposals made earlier this spring that failed to gain support, could extend these exceptions through the end of the 2022-2023 school year.

The $3 billion bill will help educators offer free meals to children who qualify for discounted lunches and breakfasts. It will reimburse schools at rates higher than inflation so they can afford to buy nutritious food. And it will eliminate fines for schools if they fail to comply with dietary guidelines due to supply chain restrictions. For example, if the current shortage of wheat means that the administrator of the school cannot buy whole grain bread, he does not need to worry about the penalty for replacing the missing menu item with white bread.

READ MORE: How Maine Is Trying to Remove Food Insecurity from Children’s Plates

The bill’s sponsors hope to hold a vote this week to get the bill through Congress and on the president’s desk by the end of the month.

“With 90 percent of our schools still facing challenges returning to normal operations, this will give our schools and summer meal programs much-needed support to address their current nutritional challenges,” said Senator Debbie Stabenow, Michigan. in a statement.

According to Diane Pratt-Hivner of the School Meals Association, school administrators typically budget and plan meals for the fall semester in the spring. This year’s challenges, such as matching offers with suppliers that mask them, canceling orders, or setting the stage for an escalation of food orders in the face of high inflation over the past decades, have also made planning more difficult, such as matching offers with suppliers that mask them, canceling orders or drafting escalation conditions. food ordering provisions in the face of high inflation over the past decades – have also made planning for emergency summer needs a big fight, a big fight.

The deadline for resuming waivers is the latest stress for school food workers. When schools and entire communities were closed by COVID in March 2020, canteen workers and nutrition administrators sorted out food needs for children and families who might otherwise be left without food. These waivers allowed children to take school-provided meals outside the building and also reimbursed schools for the cost of these meals. Traditionally, students were required to eat at the school cafeteria in accordance with federal regulations.

Instead, workers delivered food to students at home and let parents pick up food for the week on campus. This went on for months.

“Our members are really exhausted at this point,” Pratt-Hivner said.

READ MORE: How COVID funding can help improve air quality in schools

If Congress doesn’t take action, “every school district will be affected by the end of denials,” said Sebastian Varas, director of food service for the Canyons School District in northern Utah.

About a quarter of his district’s 3,400 students were eligible for free, reduced-price meals before the pandemic, and the food waiver is helping to feed them and their families. When his district warned the public that these meals might be canceled because Congress might miss the deadline, families responded that the change would be difficult for them, Varas said. The county has already been forced to close some of its summer food outlets due to funding uncertainties due to funding uncertainties. With tight household budgets and soaring gas prices, some families can’t afford to drive the extra 15 miles to get regular meals, he said.

Varas worries that the cost of inaction in Washington could be enough for some students well into the summer.

“We don’t want students to starve,” Varas said. “We know that there is a direct link between good nutrition and academic performance.”

World Nation News Desk
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