Crucial Child Nutrition Waivers Excluded from Bill, Sustainability of School Meal Programs At Risk

03/09/2022 - The Academy believes healthful school meals are as important to education as pencils and textbooks. Access to these meals is more important than ever with the COVID-19 pandemic's disproportionate impact on people with diet-related diseases and underrepresented communities. Studies continue to show that schools are the healthiest place for kids to eat in the United States.

The U.S. Congress released the FY22 omnibus appropriations bill language today and excluded the urgent request of thousands of Academy members to extend the authority for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide waivers to ensure children have access to healthful food in the face of current supply chain and labor shortages. With the failure of Congress to include this important provision, the current waivers will expire on June 30, 2022, meaning schools will have significantly fewer options to keep students fed now, as well as putting school meal programs at long-term risk as they try to bridge back to pre-pandemic operations.

Policy leaders of the Academy's School Nutrition Services Dietetic Practice Group met this morning to discuss how to move forward in the wake of this news, with many expressing concerns about how to afford healthy food for their students as costs skyrocket and the reimbursement rate will decrease by 40% in the absence of the waivers.

The bill should be voted on in the U.S. House of Representatives today and by early next week in the U.S. Senate. The Academy calls on Congress to reconsider and extend the USDA waiver authority for the 2022-2023 school year before final passage of the bill.