MEDIA RELEASE: USDA Extends Flexibilities to Provide FREE Meals to Children Through Summer Months

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently released a continuation of needed flexibilities for the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) through Summer 2021.

“We are so grateful for the USDA waiver extensions through this incredibly difficult time,” said Walter Beesley, Maine Department of Education’s Director of Child Nutrition. “The newest extension will allow Maine schools to continue to provide complimentary emergency meals in creative ways at school, remotely, and on weekends to children of all ages through the summer months.”

In the USDA announcement, they express the following:

As we complete a full year of Child Nutrition Program operations during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, we want to acknowledge the creativity, dedication, and tireless efforts of program operators and administrators at all levels to ensure access to healthy meals during what has been, for many of us, one of the most challenging years of our lifetimes. Over the past year, the Child Nutrition Program community has overcome a myriad of obstacles and has continued to provide daily meals for millions of our nation’s children and vulnerable adults. The USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) extends a heartfelt thank you to everyone who has dedicated time and energy in service to their communities through the Child Nutrition Programs over this past year.

In response to the needs of program operators and State administrators, FNS has released a series of waivers to maximize flexibility and limit exposure to COVID-19, while maintaining accountability. The waivers are currently scheduled to expire on June 30, 2021, the statutory end of the school year. These flexibilities will remain necessary to operate our programs this summer given the ongoing public health and economic crisis. Understanding that program operators are now planning how to best deploy child nutrition programs during the upcoming summer months, FNS is issuing the following updated waivers specifically for summer meal program operations in 2021. Please note that the current waivers are in effect through June 30, 2021 and that the waivers listed below are effective beginning July 1, 2021:

  • #74 Nationwide Waiver to Allow Meal Pattern Flexibilities for Summer 2021 Operations
  • #75 Nationwide Waiver to Allow Non-Congregate Feeding for Summer 2021 Operations
  • #76 Nationwide Waiver to Allow Parents and Guardians to Pick Up Meals for Children for Summer 2021 Operations
  • #77 Nationwide Waiver to Extend Area Eligibility Waivers for Summer 2021 Operations
  • #78 Nationwide Waiver of Meal Service Time Restrictions for Summer 2021 Operations
  • #79 Nationwide Waiver to Allow Offer Versus Serve Flexibilities in the Summer Food Service Program for Summer 2021 Operations
  • #80 Nationwide Waiver to Allow Area Eligibility for Closed Enrolled Sites for Summer 2021 Operations
  • #81 Nationwide Waiver to Waive First Week Site Visits in the Summer Food Service Program for Summer 2021 Operations
“Statewide we have seen a down-tick in families accepting the meals that are available at no cost to them. This has prompted schools to adapt their menus, delivery options, and advertising methods to encourage families to take advantage of this valuable service, especially during these tough times,” added Beesley. “We are hopeful that now that we know the flexibilities and funding will continue through the summer, more families will take advantage of the really great, complimentary food options from school.”

Maine Department of Education Child Nutrition staff stand ready to support Maine Child Nutrition Providers in their continued efforts to supply safe, nutritious meals to Maine’s children and adolescents through Summer 2021.

Maine DOE staff are available to answer questions and provide important training and technical assistance to the field. For questions and information please contact Adriane Ackroyd at Adriane.ackroyd@maine.gov / 207-592-1722.