There is good news. Then there is really good news. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) brought smiles to parents of school children all over the nation this past Monday when it announced it will extend free school meals to all children through the end of 2020.
“It’s for everyone, all kids regardless of economic abilities,” U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue explained. “All the kids everywhere — those who are attending school in person, those who are attending virtually.”
Flexibility standards created by Congress to help families during the coronavirus pandemic were set to expire in September. Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry said she has been calling on Perdue for months to extend the program.
“It is good news that they listened and that we’ll have this flexibility for children to have access to healthy meals at least till the end of the year,” Stabenow said.
Perdue warns there’s no guarantee the cash will last until then. He said if the money does run out, the program will again be restricted to families in need. For now though, the program remains unchanged. Families can continue to pick up school meals or have them delivered to community sites.
“We are legally not able to extend more than Congress has appropriated, so hopefully, we would not need to shorten that period of time,” Perdue said.
Stabenow said she believes the USDA has adequate funding and that if the agency requests more money, Congress will work to keep the program afloat.