Congress fails to extend critical access to school meals in spending bill
Millions of children will face hunger cliff when they lose access to school and summer meals at the end of June
Congress today released its Fiscal Year 2022 omnibus appropriations bill that could fund the federal government through September 30 and avert a government shutdown looming at the end of this week. The bill fails to include a critically needed extension of child nutrition waivers. These waivers, first authorized by Congress at the beginning of the pandemic and set to expire June 30, have allowed schools over the past two years to provide free meals and avoid various administrative and paperwork burdens, making it easier to serve children and communities in need during the school year and over the summer months.
The failure to extend these waivers, due in part to the inflexibility of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, will force millions of children to lose access to school, summer, after school, and child care meals beginning in just a few months.
We know that school meals are needed for kids to learn and thrive, and that school meals are often the healthiest source of nutrition for kids. With the COVID-19 pandemic’s disproportionate impact on low-income communities and communities of color, access to healthy school meals is more important than ever.
There is strong, broad support for extending the waivers: it is a bipartisan issue widely supported by public health, anti-hunger, and nutrition advocates; members of the school food industry; and parents, teachers, and school nutrition staff.
These waivers are still needed as schools and families recover from and respond to the economic, health, and educational fallout from the pandemic: according to recent data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, nearly 90 percent of school districts used these waivers to serve kids.
The House plans to vote on the bill today and the Senate by Friday. CSPI urges Congress to reconsider and prevent millions of kids from going hungry by extending these waivers through the summer and 2022-2023 school year before final passage.