Legislative Affairs

  • 1.  COVID-19 School Meal Waivers Update

    Posted 06-22-2022 10:29

    Yesterday, POLITICO reported that as COVID-19 school meal waivers are expected to expire on June 30, 2022 – several lawmakers are working on a bipartisan solution to help extend some of the waivers to help schools and other food providers feed children over the summer and for the 2022-2023 school year.

    Senate Agriculture Committee and House Education and Labor Committee leaders, Sens. Stabenow (D-MI) and Boozman (R-AR), and Reps. Scott (D-VA) and Foxx (R-NC), introduced the Keep Kids Fed Act (H.R. 8150). The $3 billion deal would provide some funding and flexibility to help schools and other providers navigate supply chain challenges and rising food costs during the summer and upcoming school year, to keep summer feeding programs afloat and provide some financial assistance to schools this fall.

    Highlights are below, and here is the bill text and here is a quick summary for more information.

    • USDA's authority to grant COVID-19-related meal waivers would be limited compared to its authority earlier in the pandemic.
      • Waivers related to the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and Seamless Summer Option (SSO) will only be allowed during the summer months (i.e., May-September 2022). Schools cannot continue with universal meals and receive higher summer meal reimbursement rates during the 2022-23 school year.
        • Note: Allowing these waivers to continue beyond the summer was a non-starter for Republican lawmakers due to the cost of the policy (estimated to be $11 billion a year; this $3 billion agreement, which allows other flexibilities except for SSO/SFSP waivers, was a compromise).
      • Regarding the Child and Adult Care Food Program – USDA has the authority to grant waivers for this program through June 2022.
      • Regarding meal pattern waivers for child nutrition programs – USDA has the authority to grant waivers through June 30, 2023.

    • Temporary change to eligibility for free lunch and breakfast under NSLP and SBP – For the 2022-2023 school year, children from families with incomes at or below 185% of the poverty level will be eligible for free breakfast and lunch. (Note: This brings families with children who would typically only qualify for reduced rates to be eligible for the free category for SY22-23).

    • To address rising food costs and inflation, for SY22-23 (beginning July 2022) each meal served under the School Breakfast Program (SBP) will receive an additional 15-cent reimbursement. Each meal served under the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) will receive an additional 40-cent reimbursement.


    What's next?
    Since the bill has only been introduced in the House but hasn't become law yet, the House must first move to pass the legislation and then face the Senate. POLITICO says the deal faces a tougher hurdle in the Senate, "where Democrats are likely to bring it to a floor vote through a procedure that allows any single senator to object to the legislation, slowing its passage. Sources involved in the talks say they do not believe Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will oppose the smaller plan, but it's possible another Republican will."

    It is unclear if this legislation will pass in time before waivers expire when considering other items on Congress' agenda, including gun safety legislation negotiations and Congressional hearings on the January 6 U.S. Capitol riots. We encourage members to make contingency plans for food service operations in the event that waivers are not extended in time. Please note, again, that SSO/SFSP waivers for the next school year are not currently being considered by lawmakers at this time due to the high price tag it would cost the federal government to allow them to continue.  

    ASBO International will monitor this legislation and continue advocating on behalf of our members to ensure schools can sustainably feed students as they navigate rising costs and supply chain issues. Please stay tuned to our Legislative Affairs Community for updates on this and other K-12 policy issues.

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  • 2.  RE: COVID-19 School Meal Waivers Update

    Posted 06-24-2022 09:24
      |   view attached
    Yesterday, ASBO International, AASA, AESA, NREA, and NREAC sent a letter to Congress (see attached), urging members to pass the Keep Kids Fed Act to extend school meal waivers to help schools feed students during the summer and for the 2022-2023 school year.

    Late last night, the Senate passed the legislation with an additional change to the bill, so it must now go back to the House for a final vote. NPR reports that Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) wanted to ensure the bill did not temporarily remove the "reduced-price" category of eligibility for school meals and only have "free" or "paid" meal categories for the 2022-2023 school year, as the bill would have originally allowed. The House is scheduled to vote on the revised bill this morning, where it is expected to pass and go to the president for signature by the weekend and before Congress' two-week recess for the July 4 holiday begins.



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  • 3.  RE: COVID-19 School Meal Waivers Update

    Posted 06-27-2022 11:40
    Over the weekend, President Biden signed the Keep Kids Fed Act into law. Below is a quick summary of what is included in the final law, courtesy of our nutrition advocacy allies at Share Our Strength.

    The Keep Kids Fed Act:

    • Extends the US Department of Agriculture's authority to issue nationwide waivers for Summer 2022 operations (through September 2022).
      • This would allow the USDA to extend waivers like the non-congregate and meal service time waivers for the Summer Food Service Program and Seamless Summer Option.

    • Allows the USDA to issue nationwide meal pattern waivers for all programs through June 2023.

    • Provides the USDA with more limited authority to issue other no-cost nationwide waivers for School Year 2022-2023 (through June 2023).

    • Increases the meal reimbursement rates for School Year 2022-2023, regardless of fee category or eligibility determination, by an additional:
      • 40 cents for each lunch served through the National School Lunch Program.
      • 15 cents for each breakfast served through the School Breakfast Program.
      • 10 cents for each meal served through the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), including afterschool meals.

    • Allows Tier II family day care homes participating in the CACFP to qualify for the higher Tier I reimbursement rates for July 2022 through June 2023.

    • Confirms that waivers cannot be in effect past the expiration of USDA's authority to grant those waivers.

    • Directs the USDA to provide technical assistance to state agencies and schools to assist parents and school leaders with the transition to operations without waivers.

    Please be on the lookout for additional communications from your state agency about USDA's meal waivers for the summer and 2022-2023 school year and contact us if you have any questions.

    We are sincerely grateful to ASBO International's Legislative Advisory Committee, ASBO state affiliates, and all other ASBO members who helped advocate on this issue. Your voice has made a difference by securing an extension of critical flexibilities that schools need to navigate supply chain issues and continue feeding students over the summer and next school year. Thank you for your leadership! 


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  • 4.  RE: COVID-19 School Meal Waivers Update

    Posted 06-28-2022 13:43
    Edited by ASBO USA 06-28-2022 13:44
    We have received several questions from ASBO members regarding the Keep Kids Fed Act and wanted to share this information with others below:

    1. Are the free meals extended for the summer, the 22-23 school year, or both under the Keep Kids Fed Act?
      -Free/universal meals are extended for SSO/SFSP only for the summer months (May-September 2022).
      -For the 22-23 SY, districts need to start collecting applications to determine eligibility again and will operate NSLP/SBP like normal, they will just get a higher reimbursement rate for meals.

    2. Is the free and reduced extension for everyone or is it back to the normal application process?
      -For the 22-23 SY, it will go back to the normal application process.

    3. What does this deal mean for school districts? Many summer meal programs are starting soon, so they're not sure what the best approach is in some cases.
      -Districts should reach out to their state agency for specific information on food service operations for their schools. (However, since USDA's waiver authority has been extended through September 2022 for all waivers and universal meals for the SSO/SFSP, and assuming the state agency wishes to continue taking advantage of those flexibilities, districts should be able to continue to feed students over the summer as they have been during COVID.)
      -We are awaiting additional communications from USDA about these waivers and implications for the summer and fall, but since the law was just recently passed, it will take time for USDA to share any other updates or guidance.

    4. What does this mean for them in terms of reimbursements?
      -Meals served under the SSO/SFSP will get the higher SFSP rate through September 2022.
      -For the 22-23 SY, the NSLP & SBP rates will be adjusted in July to reflect inflation, and then on top of whatever that flat reimbursement rate is, districts will get an additional 40 cents for each lunch and 15 cents for each breakfast served.
      -Under the CACFP program including for after-school meals, districts will get an additional 10 cents on top of the reimbursement rate.
      -The increased meal reimbursement is applied for all meals regardless of fee category or eligibility determination (free, reduced, paid).

    For additional information on the Keep Kids Fed Act, Share Our Strength/No Kid Hungry is hosting a webinar tomorrow June 29, 2:00-3:00 PM EST to explain what's in the law and what districts need to know for school meal operations this summer and for the 2022-2023 school year.


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  • 5.  RE: COVID-19 School Meal Waivers Update

    Posted 07-08-2022 14:07

    We received the following message from USDA regarding school meal program waivers after the passage of the Keep Kids Fed Act that may be of interest to school business professionals and their district's food service teams:

    USDA's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) recently issued a news release announcing a suite of child nutrition program nationwide waivers and flexibilities under authority provided by the Keep Kids Fed Act of 2022 to support child nutrition program operations in Summer 2022 and School Year 2022-2023.

    In that release, USDA also announced nearly $1 billion in additional funds to support schools in purchasing American-grown foods for their meal programs, with funding provided through USDA's Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC). Funds will be distributed by state agencies to schools across the country, so they can purchase domestically-grown foods for their meal programs. Both actions are a response to the significant challenges child nutrition program operators continue to face, including supply chain disruptions. The past two years of pandemic operations have been challenging, and USDA applauds our food service workers for ensuring millions of children continued to get the food they needed to live, learn, and play.

    The suite of waivers and flexibilities, listed below, provides additional support to child nutrition program operators, promotes access, and balances operational needs with the goal of providing nutritious meals. These nationwide waivers will: 

    • Extend area eligibility flexibilities for Summer 2022 operations, which allows all sites to continue serving meals in all areas, at no cost to families;
    • Provide higher Summer Food Service Program reimbursement rates to schools operating the Seamless Summer Option in Summer 2022;
    • Allow non-congregate feeding and parent pick-up for Summer 2022;
    • Allow States not to assess financial penalties to schools and program operators that do not meet meal patterns due to supply chain disruptions.

    The Keep Kids Fed Act also makes available additional funding for child nutrition program operators by:

    • Providing schools with a temporary supplement to reimbursement of 40 cents per lunch and 15 cents per breakfast;
    • Providing child care centers with a temporary supplement of 10 cents reimbursement per meal and snack; and
    • Providing family day care homes with the higher ("Tier 1") reimbursement rate for school year 2022-23.

    FNS is posting policy memoranda implementing various nationwide waivers and flexibilities on the FNS website at this link: "Child Nutrition Flexibilities for Summer 2022 and School Year 2022-2023."


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