In whatever way schools open their doors this fall, feeding students will remain one of the pieces of this year’s puzzle.
U.S. Sens. Tom Carper and Chris Coons are among 36 senators urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture to continue addressing food needs throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. If extended throughout the upcoming academic year, “children would maintain access regardless of school opening status, and struggling school nutrition programs would benefit from additional financial relief,” according to a news release.
“The economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has also resulted in millions of parents losing their jobs, and millions more students will be dependent on school-provided meals,” the senators wrote in a letter. “School meal program directors must begin procuring food, equipment, and supplies and placing orders now in preparation for the upcoming school year.”
In their letter, the senators pressed for USDA to extend waivers that help ensure low-income students can access school-provided meals next year.
The senators wrote that they wished for the USDA to extend additional waivers nationwide through the next school year, including:
• Unexpected School Closures Waiver
• Afterschool Activity Waiver
• Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program Parent Pick-Up Waiver
• Waiver of Child Nutrition Monitoring
• Waiver of Food Management Company Contract Duration Requirements
• Waiver of Local School Wellness Assessments
• Area Eligibility Waiver
• Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and Seamless Summer Option (SSO) Waivers
Additionally, the senators are calling on the USDA to reimburse schools for the transportation costs for delivering meals to low-income students.
“While many school meal programs are managing these costs for the time-being, they cannot continue absorbing them for the foreseeable future,” the senators wrote. “We ask that the USDA make additional funds available to schools to assist with the cost of delivering meals to low-income students until regular school operations are restored.”
Meanwhile, Delaware issued additional emergency benefits for households participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for July. The Delaware Department of Health and Social Services issued emergency benefits to any household not already receiving the maximum monthly SNAP benefits. SNAP households that already receive the maximum monthly benefit will not receive additional funds.
The emergency benefits were released July 30, and were automatically loaded to recipients’ SNAP Electronic Benefits Transfer cards for use starting July 31.
One in five children struggle with hunger and over 45 percent of households receiving SNAP benefits have children, a news release states.
For the 2019-20 school year, Delaware had approximately 86,000 children eligible for free and reduced-priced lunch, or about 58 percent of children in participating schools.
Many districts rallied to pull together meal service options in the days following Gov. Carney’s mandate that school buildings would close for the rest of the year, and meal programs continued into summer.
Following the closure of schools, the state also issued a P-EBT card — or a Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer — for households with children enrolled in kindergarten through 12th grade in a school that participates in the National School Lunch Program, is eligible to receive free or reduced-price school meals when schools are open or attends school where all students receive free school meals.
As of July 27, a total $33,869,371.50 P-EBT benefits were issued, with 91,459 children covered, according to a spokesperson from Delaware Department of Health and Social Services.
The program issued its last benefits June 24, covering the period of when children would have been physically in school — March through June.