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August 14, 2020

Pressley, Walsh, Lynch, Warren, Markey Renew Calls for USDA to Extend School Nutrition Waivers Through the End of the 2020-21 School Year

WASHINGTON – Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) and Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, along with Congressman Stephen F. Lynch (MA-08) and Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Edward J. Markey (D-MA), today issued statements reiterating their calls for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to extend Massachusetts’ school nutrition waivers for the duration of the 2020-21 school year. Failure to extend the current waiver, which is set to expire on August 31, would leave the over 53,000 students served by Boston Public Schools—including many students with disabilities and homeless families—at risk of food insecurity amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Massachusetts 7th Congressional District is among the hardest-hit by COVID-19, with the pandemic exacerbating the deeply entrenched inequities and disparities in our communities, including food access,” said Congresswoman Pressley. “As this public health and economic crisis worsens daily, it is critical that USDA immediately grant these waiver extensions so that Boston’s students may continue receiving these nutritious meals—which have been a lifeline for them and their families during this difficult time. We cannot stand by while our students go hungry, and we must ensure that every student has reliable and equitable access to food throughout this pandemic and long after.”

“The most fundamental need we have been meeting since the beginning of COVID-19 is feeding Bostonians. The Boston Public Schools (BPS) has been feeding tens of thousands of children — and needs to continue doing so,” said Mayor Martin J. Walsh. “If the USDA waiver is not extended, we will lose the critical food benefits that our students and families depend on, including home deliveries of meals to students with disabilities and families experiencing homelessness, and the availability of meal sites open to all our 53,000 school children in Boston. Our families’ needs have only grown during this pandemic and with record unemployment, we urgently need the federal government to continue to let us feed our children safely.”

“The students and families that use these critical school nutrition waivers have been hit hardest by the pandemic, and many depend on the meals provided as their only nutritious meal of the day,” said Congressman Lynch. “We cannot allow such basic needs to be denied to those who are already struggling. Extending these waivers through the upcoming school year will allow schools to continue to assist their most vulnerable students and their families.”

“Schools and communities across Massachusetts have stepped up to feed hungry kids during this pandemic,” said Senator Warren. “As we enter a new school year, it is critical that the USDA grant these waiver extensions so that Massachusetts school districts can continue to meet their students’ basic needs.”

“We rely on our Massachusetts schools to provide nourishment for our students’ minds and bodies,” said Senator Markey. “They deserve to enter the upcoming school year with the critical resources and support needed to continue providing meals to students. We do not know how long students will be learning remotely or through hybrid models, and families need to know that schools will still be able to meet their children’s basic needs.”

Earlier this month, the Massachusetts congressional delegation sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue urging him to immediately extend the waivers for school nutrition programs through June 30, 2021. The USDA has not yet responded to the delegation’s letter. Extending these waivers immediately will allow schools to enter the school year with the confidence that they can continue to meet students’ basic needs through flexible feeding programs that safely align with public health guidance.

Mayor Walsh echoed these concerns and emphasized the critical nature of the USDA waiver in a letter sent to the delegation on August 12, 2020.

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