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Lawmakers make one final push to aid schools before nutrition waivers expire

The Keep Kids Fed Act would provide financial assistance and meal flexibility for school nutrition programs.
Students eat lunch in the cafeteria.
Photo: Shutterstock

U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow and John Boozman and U.S. Representatives Bobby Scott and Virginia Foxx have introduced the Keep Kids Fed Act, which aims to provide meal flexibility and financial assistance to school nutrition programs for the upcoming school year.

If passed, the $3 billion package would extend no-cost waivers (including those for schools who can’t meet nutrition standards due to procurement obstacles), allow students who are eligible for reduced-price meals to receive free meals, increase federal meal reimbursements by 40 cents for every lunch and 15 cents for every breakfast beginning in July, and extend waivers for 2022 summer meal programs.  

For the past two years, school nutrition programs have been able to use U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) waivers to provide free meals for all students, receive a higher meal reimbursement rate and more. The waivers are set to expire at the end of this month, leaving many programs in the dark as they continue to deal with rising costs, supply chain problems and labor challenges.

The bipartisan group of lawmakers behind the Keep Kids Fed Act hope that this bill will help alleviate those concerns.

The School Nutrition Association has also come out in support of the bill, saying it will assist school nutrition programs in the absence of the waivers.

“School nutrition professionals have withstood crippling supply chain breakdowns, rising prices and labor shortages in their efforts to provide students healthy meals, at a time when families are struggling with higher costs," said SNA President Beth Wallace in a statement. "With crucial federal waivers on the verge of expiring, this agreement offers school meal programs a lifeline to help build back toward normal operations.” 

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