CALL TO ACTION: Urge Congress to support extending waiver authority to USDA for school nutrition programs

Please contact U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla and your local Congressional representative to urge their support to extend school meal wavier authority to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) through Sept. 30, 2023, within the pending consolidated appropriations bill that Congress is working to finalize. California’s public schools need continued flexibility to deal with supply chain issues and labor shortages. Find your member of Congress and their contact information.

What to communicate:

As a public school advocate, I ask for your support to extend the authority to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to grant school meal waivers through the 2022–23 school year. As of right now, this critical flexibility may not be included in the fiscal year 2022 consolidated (or omnibus) funding bill.

The extension of this authority to the USDA will help school food authorities, or SFAs, manage many challenges impacting the delivery of child nutrition services. As school districts and county offices of education in California work through issues related to  COVID-19, we request that Congress provide an extension through Sept. 30, 2023. This extension will help ensure that USDA and our districts and county offices of education have continued flexibility to respond to the residual impacts of the pandemic, and to ensure that federal child nutrition programs continue to operate and provide healthy snacks and meals to students.

Schools in California have returned to in-person learning, but schools still face challenges including labor shortages and supply chain delays that are affecting school meal programs. The current authority for the USDA to issue waivers is set to expire June 30, 2022. Without the requested extension, this expiration would impact USDA’s ability to respond to the supply chain, operational and access challenges affecting our schools. Moreover, it denies schools and their SFAs the tools and flexibilities they need to recover from the impacts of the pandemic and fully resume normal operations.

An extension of the current USDA waiver authority through Sept. 30, 2023, will help our program and others compile the data needed regarding school meal participation, as these numbers have changed since the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, this waiver authority has helped our program address food insecurity for numerous students, which impacts their ability to learn and succeed in school. We appreciate your consideration and support for our students, families, and district as we continue to work through challenges from COVID.

Thank you.

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