Hunger Solutions New York Urges Congress to Extend Waiver Deadline Beyond This School Year to Support Families and Schools as New York State Recovers
Student participation in school lunch dropped dramatically in New York State during the COVID-19 pandemic and school nutrition programs are still recovering, according to a new report released today by the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC).
FRAC’s The Reach of Breakfast and Lunch: A Look at Pandemic and Pre-Pandemic Participation reveals more than 1 million children in New York State received lunch on an average school day during the 2020–2021 school year, a decrease of more than 637,00 children, compared to lunch participation rates in the 2018–2019 school year—the last full school year prior to the pandemic.
Nationwide, FRAC’s report found nearly 14 million children received breakfast and 19.8 million children received lunch on an average school day during the 2020–2021 school year, a decrease of 692,000 children and 8.8 million children, respectively, compared to breakfast and lunch participation rates in the 2018–2019 school year—the last full school year prior to the pandemic.
The report provides breakfast and lunch data for every state and the District of Columbia. The 2018-2019 school year data includes participation in the School Breakfast and National School Lunch Programs. The data for the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years also include participation in the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and the Seamless Summer Option (SSO) to account for the meals provided using the child nutrition waivers that have been made available during the pandemic.
In 2020, Congress gave the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) the authority to issue nationwide child nutrition waivers through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. These waivers have allowed school nutrition programs, local government agencies, and nonprofit organizations to keep feeding children in the face of numerous challenges such as school closures, virtual learning, and the need to social distance.
Without Congressional action, the waivers are set to expire on June 30, 2022.
Despite significant efforts by New York school meal providers to keep breakfast and lunch accessible during the 2020–2021 school year, school meals have lost important ground. Continued investments are needed to support nutrition operations as they recover from the impact of the pandemic.
Childhood hunger in our state and nation would be far worse without child nutrition waivers. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause disruption, USDA will need additional waiver authority to address ongoing supply chain disruptions, staffing shortages, and to support schools and program operators through the summer and next school year.
Hunger Solutions New York, FRAC and nearly 2,000 national, state, and local organizations from every state across the country, and the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, are urging Congress to swiftly extend USDA authority to issue nationwide waivers for the Child Nutrition Programs beyond this school year.