Bipartisan Policy Center Recommends Pandemic School Meal Waivers Be Made Permanent
The Bipartisan Policy Center Food and Nutrition Security Task Force, which includes 2 former Secretaries of Agriculture and food industry representatives, has released their recommendations for ensuring good nutrition for children.
The $1.5 trillion spending bill passed by Congress did not include school meal waivers and flexibility that were introduced during the pandemic. But the Bipartisan Policy Center and the Healthy Schools Campaign think they should be made permanent.
“The last few months in particular have really been challenging. Food service staff have had to deal with higher food costs, disruptive supply chains, unpredictable school schedules, and labor shortages and have shown remarkable and commendable dedication to making sure that students are fed. And while the USDA has taken many steps to address this situation, congressional action is needed.”
The Food and Nutrition Security Task Force also recommend improving the quality of food served in schools and adding nutrition education to curriculum.
For Lt. General Mark Hertling, healthy young people are an issue of national security.
“71% of our nation’s youth are not fit enough to serve in the military. Most of that is a result of bad nutrition. So, from a soldier standpoint, I believe we need the legislative action on all the recommendations to address fixing these issues.”
The group is also calling for improvements to WIC and to allow students to access EBT benefits during school breaks and holidays.
“We have seen successful upticks in participation as a result of remote access. We have seen increased consumption of fruits and vegetables as a result of infusion of resources through the American Rescue Plan. And so, these two significant changes in the program, we see an importance of codifying those in a more permanent way through reauthorization.”
The Food Industry Association is also supporting recommendations to strengthen the nutrition standards across all food programs to better align with the dietary guidelines for Americans.
“Food retailers have embraced innovation and are supportive of utilizing technology to further modernize the federal nutrition programs. And retailers are also committed to working with USDA and beneficiaries of the programs to make the programs easier to access and participate in.”
The pandemic school meal waivers currently in place are set to expire June 30th without further action from Congress.
The task force is also recommending more research at USDA to determine how school meals and childhood nutrition impact long-term health for Americans.