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USDA issues new nationwide waivers allowing additional meal program flexibility during COVID-19

The USDA says the waivers will help provide meals to more students while also maintaining the safety of school nutrition staff and families.
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Photograph: Shutterstock

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has issued new waivers to help school nutrition professionals provide more meals to students in the safest manner possible during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Waivers are now available for meal patterns, after-school activities, the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) and parent meal pickup. The waivers apply to the National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, Child and Adult Care Food Program, and Summer Food Service Program. School districts looking to take advantage of any of these waivers must first seek approval from their state agency. 

Here is a brief overview of what each of the waivers entails. 

Nationwide Waiver of the Activity Requirement in Afterschool Care Child Nutrition Programs

Districts in states that have invoked this waiver will now no longer be required to offer some type of educational or enrichment activity to coincide with their after-school meals. 

Nationwide Waiver to Allow Parents and Guardians to Pick Up Meals for Children

This waiver gives states that are approved for noncongregate feeding permission to allow parents and guardians to pick up meals for their children without the children present. States will have to have a plan in place to ensures that only eligible children are receiving the meals and that duplicate meals are not being distributed. 

Nationwide Waiver to Allow Meal Pattern Flexibility in the Child Nutrition Programs

This waiver relaxes meal pattern requirements during the pandemic. 

Nationwide Waiver of Community Eligibility Provision Deadlines in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs

This waiver extends the annual deadlines required to apply for the CEP. 

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