Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) introduced the Child Nutrition Relief Act to extend waiver authorities for school nutrition rules granted to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) through the upcoming school year. These waivers for school nutrition programs, originally granted in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, have provided school districts in Nevada and across the country with the flexibility to deliver meal services to kids even when schools are operating on modified schedules or in non-traditional settings.
“Nevada’s seventeen school districts provide nutritious meals to thousands of school-aged children and their families each year,” said Senator Cortez Masto. “As local districts work to finalize back-to-school plans that prioritize the safety and wellbeing of students, teachers and faculty, school nutrition programs will continue to need the flexibility to effectively deliver nutrition services in an unconventional school year. My legislation will ensure the continuation of the school nutrition waivers that have allowed Nevada schools to deliver meals in socially distant settings, organize drive-by grocery pick-ups and keep food on the table for some of Nevada’s most vulnerable students.”
“Since schools closed in March 2020, the Clark County School District has served more than five million meals to students,” said Dr. Jesus F. Jara, Clark County School District Superintendent. “Our children cannot focus on instruction if we cannot meet their most fundamental needs by providing a healthy meal. It is critical to extend the nutritional waivers to continue providing our children with healthy meals as we reopen our schools via distance education.”
“Food Security continues to be a top priority, but also is a financial and logistical challenge in the Washoe County School District,” said Dr. Kristen McNeill, Superintendent of the Washoe County School District. “At the very least, we desperately need flexibility and support at the federal level and we appreciate Senator Cortez Masto taking the lead to ensure we can meet the needs of our students during this pandemic. Going forward, we expect challenges with providing meals via new distribution models with unplanned expenses and we look forward to more support from Washington DC in the future.”
“While schools across the nation are opening for the 2020-21 school year, the vast majority of our nation’s students will not be in a school building five days each week. If the Family First Coronavirus Response Act Waivers expire, districts will struggle to safely administer the federal school meals programs in compliance with CDC guidance and provide a reliable source of food security for low-income students,” said Daniel A. Domenech, Executive Director of the American Association of School Administrators. “To meet the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, superintendents and other school nutritional leaders must have the necessary tools to feed students. We are happy to endorse this common sense legislation, a quick policy fix that provides meaningful relief to school districts and communities on the ground, ensuring that just because the pandemic endures, school and child hunger doesn’t have to.”
Over 32% of children in Nevada are projected to face food insecurity in 2020. As the start of the 2020-2021 academic year comes closer, Nevada’s school districts will need continued support to ensure they can deliver meals and food services to children while following local, state and federal coronavirus guidelines. One way school districts have continued to serve their students is through waivers of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) school nutrition rules, which have helped give schools and their partners the necessary flexibility to deliver meals to kids even when schools are operating on modified schedules or in non-traditional settings.
The Child Nutrition Relief Act would extend these federal waiver authorities for school nutrition rules granted to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. While existing law provides the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) with limited waiver authorities in instances of unanticipated school closures and disasters, the USDA cannot implement nationwide waivers or waivers that increase costs to the federal government. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act removed both of those limitations, and the Child Nutrition Relief Act would ensure these waivers extend to the end of the School Year 2020/2021.
The bill is supported by Jhone Ebert, Superintendent of Public Instruction for the Nevada Department of Education, Clark County School District, Washoe County School District, the Nevada Department of Agriculture, the School Nutrition Association, the American Association of School Administrators and the Food Bank of Northern Nevada.