August 04, 2020

Massachusetts Lawmakers Urge USDA to Extend School Nutrition Waivers Through the End of the 2020-21 School Year

Text of Letter (PDF)

Washington, D.C. - United States Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Edward J. Markey (D-MA) along with Representatives Richard E. Neal (D-MA-01), James P. McGovern (D-MA-02), Stephen F. Lynch (D-MA-08), William Keating (D-MA-09), Joseph P. Kennedy III (D-MA-04), Katherine Clark (D-MA-05), Seth Moulton (D-MA-06), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA-07) and Lori Trahan (D-MA-03) sent a letter urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to extend Massachusetts' school nutrition waivers for the duration for the 2020-21 school year, which would allow schools to continue to meet their students' basic needs during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In July 2020, nearly one in five Massachusetts families with children reported not having enough food to eat. Meals provided by schools during closures have played a crucial role in preventing family hunger during this crisis. In order to continue to address these urgent needs, DESE is requesting an extension of its approved waivers for non-congregate meal service, parent/guardian meal pick-up, area eligibility, and meal-time restrictions through June 30, 2021. These waivers allow schools and community organizations to provide meals in different settings to meet the needs of children and families while schools are operating virtually.

The lawmakers ask for continued flexibility as schools head into the 2020-21 school year. In anticipation of the school year, Massachusetts schools are developing plans for in-person, remote and hybrid instruction with the understanding that they will likely move back and forth between these models during the year. The lawmakers note that this approach allows for schools to adapt to the changing public health circumstances in their communities.  

 "It is highly likely that many Massachusetts students will spend a substantial amount of the coming year participating in distance education, whether as part of a fully remote or hybrid model," the lawmakers wrote. "It is currently impossible for families and schools to identify the specific duration of remote learning, with so much still unknown about the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on children." 

"We urge you to immediately grant these waiver extensions. This will allow Massachusetts schools to enter the new school year with the confidence that they can continue to meet their students' basic needs, whether through a traditional school meals program or through flexible, creative feeding programs that safely align with public health guidance," the lawmakers continued.

Senator Warren previously led the Massachusetts delegation in supporting Massachusetts's initial request for school nutrition waivers and extending them through the summer. She has also fought to improve or college students' access to SNAP during this crisis.