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May 12, 2022

Pressley, McGovern, Lee Urge Congressional Leadership to Extend USDA Child Nutrition Waiver Authority to Combat Food Insecurity in Schools

Text of Letter (PDF)

WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), Congressman James P. McGovern (MA-02), and Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13) urged House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to extend the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) child nutrition waiver authority, which is set to expire on June 30 and has allowed millions of children in Massachusetts and nationwide to access free and healthy school meals during the pandemic. The lawmakers also urged Congressional leadership to expand community eligibility and establish a nationwide summer EBT program to ensure that school-age children have access to vital nutrition.

“While we have made significant strides in combatting the pandemic, families across our districts and across the nation are continuing to struggle with lingering impacts of the pandemic that contribute to food insecurity,” the lawmakers wrote. “From pervasive staffing shortages at school lunch programs, to ongoing supply chain disruptions, to rising costs of food and other supplies, the barriers to food security for many families are unrelenting.”

At the beginning of the pandemic, Congress granted the USDA the authority to issue nationwide child nutrition waivers to address unprecedented challenges relating to the pandemic., In light of the ongoing impacts of the pandemic, these waivers have aided millions of families in combatting the child hunger crisis and continued to serve an additional ten million children. Failing to extend the USDA’s authority to provide these waivers would leave millions of children at further risk of food insecurity.

“News reports point to concerns over cost as the reason for Republican opposition to these critical programs that will keep our most vulnerable children fed,” the lawmakers continued. “This is simply unconscionable. In one of the richest nations in the world, it is an absolute disgrace that millions of children are left to struggle with food insecurity every day.”

Rep. Pressley’s efforts to combat food scarcity during the pandemic began at the onset of the COVID-19 crisis in March 2020 when Rep. Pressley and the entire Massachusetts delegation successfully urged the USDA to enact school nutrition waivers to ensure no student lost access to nutritious meals when schools shifted to remote learning.  Rep. Pressley has also led her colleagues in repeatedly urging USDA to extend school nutrition waivers through the end of the 2020-2021 school year.

In July 2020, Reps. Pressley and McGovern led more than 20 lawmakers from across the Northeast in calling on the USDA to equitably distribute relief funding meant to prevent food insecurity.

In December 2020, Reps. Pressley, McGovern, and Sen. Edward Markey demanded answers from USDA following reports of food box shortages and called for a meeting to discuss the challenges that food box recipients and distributors are facing in Massachusetts.