Merkley, Wyden Back School Meal Programs Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

Oregon Democrat Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden are urging the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to continue critical flexibility that has allowed students to access much-needed meals throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. If extended throughout the 2020-2021 school year, children would maintain access regardless of school opening status, and struggling school nutrition programs would benefit from additional financial relief.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has forced schools around the country to close their buildings and shift instruction to online and distance-learning models,” the senators wrote. “For many children, school breakfast and lunch may be the only healthy and regular meals they receive.”

The senators continued, “The economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has also resulted in millions of parents losing their jobs, and millions more students will be dependent on school-provided meals. School meal program directors must begin procuring food, equipment, and supplies and placing orders now in preparation for the upcoming school year.”

Para ayudar a garantizar que los directores y el personal del programa de comidas escolares tengan la certeza de que necesitan comenzar a prepararse para el próximo año escolar, los senadores instan al USDA a extender una variedad de exenciones que ayudarán a garantizar que los estudiantes de bajos ingresos puedan acceder a las comidas proporcionadas por la escuela. durante el próximo año escolar.

Additionally, the senators are calling on the USDA to reimburse schools for the transportation costs for delivering meals to low-income students: “While many school meal programs are managing these costs for the time-being, they cannot continue absorbing them for the foreseeable future. We ask that the USDA make additional funds available to schools to assist with the cost of delivering meals to low-income students until regular school operations are restored.”

This letter comes as some of the largest school districts in Oregon announced that they would be transitioning to full-time, online only instruction through at least November. As of now, those school districts include Beaverton, North Clackamas, Lake Oswego, Portland Public Schools, Hillsboro, and Salem-Keizer.