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USDA extends universal free school lunch through 2021-22 academic year

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Tuesday that it will extend emergency school meal waivers through the 2021-22 school year, not Sept. 30, the previous cutoff date. The child nutrition program waivers give schools more flexibility to offer free meals to all students, but especially the estimated 12 million children and teenagers experiencing food insecurity during disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic.

"States and districts wanted waivers extended to plan for safe reopening in the fall." Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement. "This action also increases the reimbursement rate to school meal operators so they can serve healthy foods to our kids. It's a win-win for kids, parents, and schools."

The waivers allow school districts more options to get meals to students, including offering free meals outside regular meal times, home delivery to distance learners, and curbside pickup of meals for multiple days at a time.