EARLY YEARS: Parents urged to encourage Congress to extend federal child nutrition waivers

Studies show 10 million children benefited from free school meal programs
A healthy meal makes all the difference to children in the classroom
Published: Jul. 20, 2022 at 6:07 AM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Since 2020, federal child nutrition waivers have ensured all children received free school meals. They’ve also helped schools handle rising food costs, labor shortages and supply chain issues.

“What we found was when nutrition in children improved, that the number of children receiving these meals went up and that this was a really good thing,” says Dr. Richard Besser, President and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Recent legislation passed by Congress extended the federal child nutrition waivers through the summer, but not into the upcoming school year.

American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown is urging Congress to do more.

“If these child nutrition waivers are not extended, it will be very devastating to families in this country. 23 million families are food insecure, and we know that through the waivers, 10 million children benefited by being able to have access to nutritious school lunches and breakfasts that allowed them to have the nutrition that they otherwise may not have had,” says Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association.

“We don’t want to be in the situation in our country where a family is having to decide between filling up the tank of the car with gas, paying the rent, putting food on the table for dinner or being able to pack a lunch for their child to take to school,” says Dr. Besser.

If you’re concerned about the waivers, Dr. Besser recommends making your views known and find out what your specific school district is offering for the upcoming year.

“Make sure that your school is sending out to everyone and every family in a timely fashion, forms that need to be completed, so that every child who would be eligible at getting those lunches and there’d be no gap,” says Dr. Besser.

“No amount of money is too much money to make sure that children are not going hungry in this country,” says Brown.

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