The Biden Administration Just Extended This Important School Meal Program

Food insecurity has been among the social issues the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to public attention. It's defined as "a lack of consistent access to enough food for every person in a household to live an active, healthy life," according to Feeding America. Today, as many as 12 million children in the U.S. are experiencing food insecurity, according to a fact sheet issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and a report by Feeding America predicts that the number could rise to 13 million over the course of 2021.

To help address the problem, the USDA had previously issued waivers allowing all children to receive free nutritious school meals through September 30, 2021 (via USDA). Some of these waivers included access to meals for students learning at home, available meals outside of traditional settings and times, and even curbside pickup. According to The Washington Post, the September cutoff left "schools and families uncertain about what next school year might look like." Yesterday, the Biden-Harris administration sought to alleviate those concerns by extending those waivers through June 30, 2022, (which will cover the entire 2021-2022 school year) according to the USDA.

Here is why the Biden Administration has prioritized free school meal programs

Although food insecurity among Americans, and particularly among American children, has become an issue that the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted for all Americans, it is not new, nor is it unique to the COVID-19 pandemic. Even under the best of circumstances, such as in 2019, when overall food insecurity was at an all-time low in over two decades, there were still 35 million people living with food insecurity in the U.S, according to Feeding America. Among them were 11 million children. The pandemic merely exacerbated an existing problem, which can have a terrible impact on children, who require consistent access to food for a healthy, active lifestyle (via Feed America). 

A 2021 study from Tufts University and published in JAMA Network found that schools were actually the healthiest source of food in the U.S. It appears the Biden-Harris Administration had that in mind, among other facts, in extending the critically important free school meal programs.