Pandemic-related expansions of some nutrition programs were extended through an announcement by the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. The
announcement extended some child nutrition nationwide waivers and flexibilities for schools and child care through the next school year of 2021–2022. The continuation of the nutrition program waivers means that schools will be able to continue to get higher reimbursement rates for meals, allow easier bulk meal distribution, and loosen nutrition requirements if there are supply chain constraints.
There was bipartisan support for the USDA action with House Education and Labor ranking member Congresswoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) saying, “While the pandemic is still ongoing, states, schools, and local providers should have the flexibility needed to provide students with access to nutritious meals while our country gets back on its feet.”
The waivers have been in place since March 2020. According to the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC), the extended waiver includes the Seamless Summer Option, allowing schools to provide meals that meet the school breakfast and lunch nutrition standards and receive the Summer Food Service Program reimbursement rate. This option allows schools to serve free meals to all children, regardless of location; Area Eligibility, which allows meals to be provided in areas that do not meet the usual 50 percent area eligibility threshold and waives area eligibility for family child care homes; Meal Pattern Flexibility, which allows for flexibility in meeting the meal pattern requirements in specific situations; Non-Congregate, which allows meals to be served and eaten outside of group settings; Meal Service Times, which allows service outside of standard meal times (including allowing for multiple meals to be served at one time); and the Parent/Guardian Pick Up, which allows a parent or guardian to pick up meals to take home to children.