Chairman Scott, Ranking Member Stabenow Denounce USDA Inaction to Provide School Meals to Children
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Chairman Robert C. "Bobby" Scott (VA-03), House Committee on Education and Labor, Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry called on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to reverse its decision and take action to provide healthy meals to students for the duration of the school year.
“The Department’s refusal to extend all school meal waivers is inconsistent and baffling during this national crisis, especially considering that as many as 17 million children did not get enough to eat this summer and there are no signs of the situation improving once the summer is over,” wrote the lawmakers.
In the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, Congress granted authority to the USDA to issue waivers so schools and community sponsors could provide school meals to children during the COVID-19 pandemic. The USDA has stopped short of extending all available flexibilities that keep children fed while schools are closed and also reduce administrative burdens for schools.
These flexibilities would make meal service easier in a number of ways, including allowing schools to provide meals at one pick location rather than making parents go to different schools if they have multiple children. It would also allow community organizations like the Boys and Girls Club and YMCA to continue providing school meals to students in childcare if their school is on a rotational schedule.
In a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on August 14, Ranking Member Stabenow joined Chairman Scott, to urge the USDA to take action and use its full authority to provide healthy meals to students for the duration of the school year. Secretary Perdue responded on August 20 and refused to extend waivers that allowed states and schools to more seamlessly operate through the emergency summer meal programs. In a follow-up letter today, Stabenow and Scott denounced USDA’s inaction and called for the Department to reverse its harmful decision.
“By passing the Families First Coronavirus Response Act authorities into law, Congress clearly gave the Department the tools it needs to continue providing the necessary waivers throughout the duration of the pandemic,” wrote the lawmakers. “We therefore urge you to immediately reverse your decision to not extend all school meal waivers as there is no basis for your claim that the Department lacks the authority to do so.”
To read the full text of the letter, click here.