Policy and Advocacy
Lots of updates to share this week! At the federal level - In response to the dramatic increases in the number of households with children experiencing hunger as a result of the pandemic, earlier this week the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued a series of nationwide waivers extension through the 2021–2022 school year will have a tremendous impact on combating childhood hunger. These waivers will enable schools and childcare providers to maintain access to nutritious meals for children. The waivers include:
- Seamless Summer Option, allowing schools to provide meals that meet the school breakfast and lunch nutrition standards and receive the Summer Food Service Program reimbursement rate. This also allows schools to serve free meals to all children, regardless of location;
- Area Eligibility, which allows meals to be provided in areas that do not meet the usual 50 percent area eligibility threshold and waives area eligibility for family childcare homes;
- Meal Pattern Flexibility, which allows for flexibility in meeting the meal pattern requirements in specific situations;
- Non-Congregate, which allows meals to be served and eaten outside of group settings;
- Meal Service Times, which allows service outside of standard mealtimes; and
- Parent/Guardian Pick Up, which allows a parent or guardian to pick up meals for children.
By extending these waivers now, USDA is providing schools and childcare providers both certainty about resources and the planning time they need to effectively serve children nutritious meals no matter what the school or preschool days look like next year. We applaud USDA for prioritizing the health and learning needs of children, easing the administrative burden and budget pressure upon schools and childcare providers, and of course supporting parents and our overall economic recovery.
Here in PA– We are grateful to the Pennsylvania Department of Health Bureau of WIC for taking a valuable option made possible by the American Rescue Plan. PA WIC will increase the funds families receive to purchase fruits and vegetables with their WIC benefits to $35 per month (up from $9 for children and $11 for mothers). This ARP change, which both expands access to fresh local produce and encourages healthier eating, is available for a maximum of four months and will be effective in PA from June – September 2021.
Another item on the WIC front – Every year, the state evaluates its WIC plan and provides opportunity for public comment. Through our partnership with Just Harvest, we are hosting two webinars next week to help parents understand how they can submit comments to the PA WIC State plan, as well as explain what WIC policies the state controls (as opposed to those set at federal level). The webinars will be the same, but we are offering them at two times to accommodate different schedules. Please spread the word! This is a great time for current and former WIC participants to share their experience and tell PA officials how to improve the program! They can register by clicking on the date and time below that works for their schedule (both sessions will be the same):
· Tuesday April 27th at 6 pm
· Wednesday April 28th at 3pm