On April 20, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) extended flexibilities for federal child nutrition programs to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic through June 30, 2022. According to the administration, maintaining these flexibilities—which were initially set to expire in June 2021—will support families and children with nutritious meals during the current public health emergency while managing increased costs associated with pandemic-related operational and supply chain challenges. With roughly 13 million children projected to experience food insecurity in 2021, counties applaud this administrative action, which help ensure children in our communities can access the food they need to thrive.
With the extension, schools nationwide may continue to serve free meals to all children through the National School Lunch Program Seamless Summer Option, which is typically only available during the summer months. Schools that choose this option will receive higher-than-normal meal reimbursements for every meal they serve to ensure that they can meet federal nutrition standards. In addition, USDA is continuing the option for schools and child care institutions to offer breakfasts, lunches, and after school snacks in non-group settings at flexible times and for parents and guardians to pick up meals for their children when programs are not operating normally.
Though the role of county governments in administering, operating and funding child nutrition programs varies, these programs support key county priorities such as improving early child development, combatting food insecurity, preventing child poverty and stimulating the local economy through the procurement process. Counties support policies that ensure all children have access to healthy meals at no-cost in school, at child care and during the summer months.
NACo continues to work with our federal partners to ensure counties and child-serving institutions have the necessary resources and flexibility to meet the needs of our communities during the COVID-19 national public health emergency and beyond.