USDA today announced it is extending the deadline for the public to comment on a pair of proposed rules on school and summer meals reforms. USDA is providing additional time to ensure those who wish to provide input do not miss out on the opportunity while dealing with the impacts of the novel coronavirus outbreak.
The reforms, announced on January 17, 2020, put local school and summer food service operators back in the driver’s seat of their programs by increasing flexibility and reducing administrative burden. For additional details about these proposals, see:
- School Meals Reform Factsheet
- Summer Meals Reform Factsheet
- USDA Sets the Record Straight on Proposed School Meals Flexibilities
The comment period will be extended 30 days ending April 22, 2020. This extension will allow schools, state agencies, stakeholders, and others who are working tirelessly to ensure children have food to eat while schools are closed the opportunity to provide valuable feedback. USDA encourages stakeholders to submit comments via regulations.gov.
USDA Actions in Response to COVID-19
Last week, Secretary Perdue announced proactive flexibilities to allow meal service during school closures to minimize potential exposure to the coronavirus. During an unexpected school closure, schools can leverage their participation in one of USDA’s summer meal programs to provide meals at no cost to students. Under normal circumstances, those meals must be served in a group setting. However, in a public health emergency, the law allows USDA the authority to waive the group setting meal requirement, which is vital during a social distancing situation.
USDA is using all available program flexibilities and contingencies to serve our program participants across our 15 nutrition programs. We have already begun to issue waivers to ease program operations and protect the health of participants. As of today, USDA has been asked to waive congregate feeding requirements in all 50 states, the District of Columbus, and Puerto Rico and USDA has granted those requests.
Secretary Perdue spoke at the School Nutrition Association’s 48th Annual Legislative Action Conference about USDA’s response to the Coronavirus as it relates to school meal programs.
USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) administers 15 nutrition assistance programs that leverage American’s agricultural abundance to ensure children and low-income individuals and families have nutritious food to eat. FNS also co-develops the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which provide science-based nutrition recommendations and serve as the cornerstone of federal nutrition policy.