March 13, 2020
The Honorable Sonny Perdue Secretary
U.S. Department of Agriculture 1400 Independence Avenue, SW Washington, DC 20250
Dear Mr. Secretary,
New Mexico has closed its schools until April 6, 2020. As the state regularly at the top of the childhood food insecurity ranking, the New Mexico delegation requests significant flexibility in implementing the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). With a both urban and rural student population, different strategies to ensure that children are fed that are not normally permitted will be necessary.
USDA currently allows eligible School Food Authorities (SFAs) to serve students meals through the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) during unanticipated school closures. However, several barriers prevent the effective use of this emergency feeding vehicle in the event of widespread coronavirus-related school closures We encourage USDA to consider extending waiver language and program eligibility to enable SFAs to serve children during school closures.
We request that USDA take the following steps:
- Waive requirements for congregate feeding, as USDA has done in cases of extreme heat, to enable grab and go service and minimize the risk of disease spread.
- Extend eligibility to participate in SFSP to all SFAs impacted by coronavirus closures.
- Allow SFSP meals to be served at school sites, in addition to community sites, without requiring SFAs or states to request a waiver.
- Permit delivery of meals to satellite sites, so schools equipped to do so can deliver meals to multiple locations throughout the community, minimizing families’ dependence on public transportation to access meals.
- Maximize the availability and use of USDA Foods for emergency feeding operations.
- Minimize complicated or burdensome regulatory requirements for SFAs seeking to launch emergency feeding operations.
Expanding opportunities for SFAs to serve students during anticipated school closures would help combat food insecurity, ensure that food services employees don’t lose hours, and keep federal dollars flowing into communities.
We appreciate your consideration of these initial suggestions and welcome the opportunity to discuss these issues further as the Department addresses the evolving coronavirus situation.
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This post was written by DeAnn Sena OConnor