Academy Member Briefs House Education and Labor Committee on State of School Meals

09/25/2020 - On September 23, Academy member Angela Richey, MPH, RD, SNS, briefed the House Education and Labor Committee on the state of school meals in her Minnesota districts and called for the Senate and U.S. Department of Agriculture to act with urgency to pass and implement the provisions outlined in the House continuing resolution to extend all essential nationwide child nutrition waivers through September 30, 2021.

Richey is the Nutrition Services Director at Roseville Area and St. Anthony/New Brighton Schools in Minnesota, where she oversees nearly 10,000 students in 18 schools and has experienced firsthand how the COVID-19 pandemic impacts students, families, school nutrition programs, local farmers and school nutrition industry partners.

"Unfortunately, our programs have faced critical challenges due to COVID-19, substantial declines in the number of meals served and crippling revenue losses that threaten our ability to meet students' nutritional needs in the future," Richey stated.

According to a poll conducted by School Nutrition Association, these problems are not unique to Richey's district alone—with 80 percent of districts serving fewer meals since COVID-19 school closures. Of these districts, 59 percent have seen the number of school meals served drop by 50 percent or more.

Decreased participation coupled with rising costs for food, labor, equipment and transportation could turn temporary furloughs into permanent lay-offs, leaving these programs unable to provide as many meals to their communities and furthering the increase in food insecurity due to the COVID-19 pandemic, especially among minority communities already at greater risk for food insecurity and the resulting complications.

Calling for swift action to pass and implement waiver extensions and for Congress to provide emergency relief funds to school nutrition programs, Richey concluded her statement: "Congress has helped numerous other industries. What is more important than to invest in the health of our country's children?"

To view the recording of the brief click here and see her full remarks here. The Academy continues to advocate for these critical waivers and emergency relief funding outlined in its school reopening issue brief.