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USDA Extends School Nutrition Waivers, a Boon for Schools with Students at Home

U.S. Department of Agriculture

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Monday extended school nutrition waivers, allowing districts to continue practices like feeding kids whether they’re enrolled or not through the end of 2020.

The extension makes it easier for schools to get meals to kids who are on a distance learning plan and track them for reimbursement. Hunger Free Oklahoma Executive Director Chris Bernard said it also makes things easier on families.

"Because what we saw during this whole time is neighbors would pick up meals for multiple families because other families were working or for multiple kids. Kids would pick up at schools that maybe they didn’t attend because they were actually closer, and without these waivers, all of those things would have been impossible," Bernard said.

Oklahoma City Public Schools Superintendent Sean McDaniel said nutrition is an important component of public education.

"If I am well-fed and I’m not worried about where my next meal is going to come from, I can handle some of the other challenges that I’m going to face throughout the day," McDaniel said.

The news comes a little late. OKCPS, which started Monday in nine weeks of distance learning, had already notified parents of requirements as if the waivers no longer existed. Bernard said community organizations that fed kids during the summer are also changing course.

"We had a lot of partners who now had to plan as if they weren’t going to be in place, and they find out the day before that they are, but that’s still better than them not going into place at all," Bernard said.

Parents will want to check with their child’s district about how their feeding program will be affected.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.
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