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School Meal Waivers to Expire; NWTNLFN Asks for Support

WEAKLEY COUNTY (June 14) – With the school meals waivers allowing students across the country to receive free lunches set to expire June 30, the Nutrition Department for the Weakley County School System and Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network are asking for community support and encouraging members to contact their legislators and ask them to encourage the USDA to keep the waivers in place for the upcoming school year.

Schools serve as a critical venue to provide support to children. School lunch programs improve dietary intake, specifically increasing the fruit and vegetable consumption of students. Research shows receiving a free lunch reduces food insecurity and school meal disparities. It is crucial to not only address having enough to eat, but also provide quality nutrition to help prevent poor health outcomes. Additionally, free school lunch programs reduce financial and emotional stress on food-insecure students and families.

School nutrition directors are already planning menus, writing bids, and placing orders for School Year 2022-23. School meal programs continue to face acute supply chain, labor, and financial challenges. With no sign of disruptions easing, uncertainty regarding waiver status and reimbursement rates is hampering the integral bid process.

“Meal programs and their suppliers urgently need the assurance of waiver extensions through SY 2022-23 and the security of continued regulatory flexibility to support meal service for students. The loss of child nutrition waivers on June 30 will have devastating consequences for these programs and the millions of students who depend on school meals. Contact your legislators to urge support for bipartisan Senate and House legislation to allow USDA to extend these critical waivers,” representatives of the NWTN Local Food Network noted.

“I’m very concerned about not having the necessary waivers in place for school meals next year,” stated Trista Snider, School Nutrition Director for Weakley County Schools. “Our department stands to lose over $800,000 in revenue next school year if reimbursement rates are reduced, and if we revert to feeding students based on eligibility categories.  If you would like to speak on behalf of kids and School Nutrition Programs across the nation, I encourage you to let your voice be heard and share this information with teachers, parents, and other stakeholders who may also like to take action!”

The Support Kids Not Red-Tape Act is critical to sustaining school nutrition programs, ensuring children have access to school meals, and preventing substantial financial losses for schools nationwide.

Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network is launching a postcard writing campaign in support of extending school nutrition program waivers for schools facing acute supply chain disruptions, persistent labor shortages, and escalating costs. Currently, waivers will expire on June 30, resulting in devastating consequences for these programs and the hungry students that rely on them.

The Support Kids Not Red-Tape Act is four-fold:

1) Extends USDA’s waiver authority through September 30, 2023,

2) Directs states to submit a transition plan to USDA so that schools will be prepared and supported when transitioning back to normal National School Lunch Program operations after the end of the waiver,

3) Directs the Secretary of Agriculture to provide technical assistance to states on drafting transition plans and to School Food Authorities on meeting meal standards during the waiver period, and

4) Prevents schools from being penalized for not meeting meal pattern requirements during the waiver period if the violations are due to supply chain disruptions.

Share the video, sign the online petition, and download postcards, information and links at: nwtnlfn.org/2022/04/04/support-kids-not-red-tape-act

Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit serving as a catalyst for a thriving and equitable local food system that is accessible to all.

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