USDA Extends School Nutrition Waiver at McConnell’s Request


Kentucky Superintendent: ‘I appreciate Senator Mitch McConnell making a difference for the children’

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Senator Mitch McConnell

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced today the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) agreed to his request to extend school food waivers through the end of 2020. These waivers eliminate restrictive requirements and increase flexibility for schools and other organizations as they serve meals to children at no cost. Senator McConnell, U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) and 18 other Senators wrote a letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue encouraging him to exercise his emergency authority to provide flexibility to help deliver nutritional meals to those in need during the coronavirus pandemic.

“I’m grateful to Secretary Perdue and the entire Trump administration for helping protect Kentucky’s children during this pandemic. Young people should focus on learning and staying safe during these uncertain times, not on where they’ll find their next meal,” said Senator McConnell. “With the additional flexibility and increased access to federally-supported food programs, Kentucky’s children can learn and thrive whether they are in the classroom or learning from home.”

Congress provided USDA the ability to extend this school nutrition waiver in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. In that legislation, Congress also appropriated funding for the USDA Farmers to Families Food Box program, which has delivered 75 million food boxes to American families in need. This program has played an important role in collecting excess commodities from farmers, who have been struggling with uncertain markets during the pandemic, and distributing them to families in need.

Senator McConnell continued: “I’d especially like to thank Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles and the other leaders across our Commonwealth who have also developed innovative ideas to tackle food insecurity during this pandemic. By working together, we can overcome this crisis, encourage Kentucky’s economic comeback, and support vulnerable families.

According to Feeding America’s “Map the Meal Gap 2020,” 18.9% of Kentucky children experience food insecurity—more than the national average. Agriculture Commissioner Quarles launched the Kentucky Hunger Initiative in 2016 to connect farmers, charitable organizations, faith groups, community leaders, educators and government entities to combat hunger in the Commonwealth.

“I am grateful to Secretary Perdue for extending flexibilities to schools and other organizations to serve meals to children during the coronavirus pandemic,” Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture Ryan Quarles said. “Last month, Jefferson County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Marty Pollio and I advocated for USDA to provide such flexibilities to school districts in this uncertain time. I am proud that Leader McConnell joined this effort and used his platform as Senate Majority Leader to fight to feed Kentucky schoolchildren.”

“I am very pleased to hear that the meal program has been extended through the end of the year. Our staff has served over 75,000 meals since March 13, 2020, and worked hard to meet the needs of the children within Bracken County,” said Bracken County Schools Superintendent Jeff Aulick. “I appreciate Senator Mitch McConnell making a difference for the children in Bracken County by providing this opportunity.”

“We appreciate Senator McConnell’s commitment to students of Fleming County,” Fleming County Schools Superintendent Brian Creasman said. “The USDA’s Waiver will go a long way to ensuring that students are fed as we reopen schools. As discussed with Senator McConnell, before students can learn they must be fed. Furthermore, as recognized by Senator McConnell, schools need flexibility as they open with in-person classes, especially with red tape at the federal level such as with the USDA’s Free School Meals program. With so many things that we must navigate with COVID-19, it is good that we do not need to also navigate bureaucracy when we are so close to reopening schools.”

Press release from office of Senator Mitch McConnell