- The USDA announced an extension of its free lunch program through early next year.
- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack called it a “win-win for kids, parents and schools.”
- The move is aimed at reaching nearly 12 million kids experiencing hunger or food insecurity.
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The US Department of Agriculture announced on Tuesday that it is extending a free school-lunch program for every K-12 student through spring 2022.
“States and districts wanted waivers extended to plan for safe reopening in the fall,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement. “This action also increases the reimbursement rate to school meal operators so they can serve healthy foods to our kids. It’s a win-win for kids, parents and schools.”
The emergency lunch waiver program is designed to reach children experiencing hunger and food insecurity. It was implemented early last year as coronavirus infections swept the country, triggering a massive wave of layoffs.
The USDA estimated nearly 12 million kids live in a household that didn’t have enough to eat at some point in the pandemic. The measure was renewed beyond its September 30 end date.
Federal reimbursement rates to schools were beefed up from $3.60 to $4.25 last year, The Washington Post reported. That step allowed schools to budget for bigger costs incurred due to pandemic-related supply shortages as well as obtain to-go boxes and bags.
The Biden administration provided $12 billion in nutritional assistance as part of its $1.9 trillion stimulus law approved last month. It included a 15% boost to food-stamp benefits among many other provisions.