USDA Extends Universal Free School Meals for Kids Through Next Year

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced on Tuesday that school meal programs and childcare institutions across the country could continue serving free healthy meals in the fall. Several meal service flexibilities that enable social distancing have been extended through June 30, 2022.

According to a USDA press release, this effort is part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to reopening schools safely. The goal is to provide safe, healthy meals free of charge to children as the pandemic threatens the food and nutrition security of the most vulnerable population.

“USDA will remain relentless in ensuring our nation’s children get the critical nutrition they need,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “States and districts wanted waivers extended to plan for safe reopening in the fall. USDA answered the call to help America’s schools and childcare institutions serve high-quality meals while being responsive to their local needs as children safely return to their regular routines. 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.”

According to USDA officials, about 12 million children are currently living in households where they may not always have enough to eat during the pandemic. During the past year, America’s schools and childcare centers across the country provided a nutrition lifeline for children, many of whom depend on USDA’s child nutrition programs for as many as three meals a day.

Click here for more information on how the American Rescue Plan is working toward ending food insecurity.

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