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Following Pingree’s Advocacy, USDA Approves Maine DOE’s Request to Allow Flexibility for School Meal Service Program Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

Washington, March 11, 2020

Following Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine)’s questioning of United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue about how his agency would provide states with flexibility to alter how school meals are provided amid the coronavirus outbreak, the USDA has approved the Maine Department of Education’s (DOE) emergency school meals program waiver.

“For the one in five Maine children experiencing food insecurity, their school meal is often the only one that they receive each day,” said Congresswoman Pingree. “As schools across the nation take precautions to prevent exposure to COVID-14, it’s vital that states have flexibility to continue providing meals to students off-site. I am grateful that the USDA has moved swiftly to approve Maine’s waiver and to prevent kids from going hungry during this public health emergency.”

Yesterday, during a House Appropriations Committee hearing, Pingree questioned USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue about how the nation’s school meals program would be impacted by the outbreak of COVID-19. Across the nation, schools are taking proactive steps to prevent spread of the coronavirus by temporarily closing their doors. Multiple states, including Maine, have asked the USDA for a waiver so that they have more flexibility in serving school meals, including offering school meals off-site. Around 22 million students receive free or reduced lunch during the school year; one in five Maine children is food insecure.

Secretary Perdue told Congresswoman Pingree definitively that the “answer is yes” if states have filed waivers they will be approved. Pingree followed up to ask if waivers would potentially be unnecessary if a Presidential Emergency Declaration was made, to which Perdue said state waivers would still be necessary.

Watch their full exchange here

 

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