The US Department of Agriculture has announced that it is extending Universal Free Lunch through the 2021-2022 school year.
“This is an effort to help more than 12 million school students who are going through food insecurity. 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,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement. “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.”
Back in March, the administration said it would only be extended until September 30th, leaving schools and families uncertain about what next school year might look like, according to The Washington Post.
The USDA’s decision means that schools won’t have to transition this fall back to traditional school lunch and breakfast programs, which typically provide a mix of free, subsidized and paid meals to students, depending on their household’s income level.
According to Feeding America, more than 42 million people may experience food insecurity during the pandemic.
The USDA offers a toll-free number 1-866-3-HUNGRY or 1-877-8-HAMBRE (Spanish) to support families in need of food assistance. The hotline is staffed Monday through Friday between 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
The USDA also has a Meals For Kids Finder for when schools are closed.