Collins, Hassan Lead Push for Support of School Meal Programs Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

The Senators Are Also Calling for Additional Support to Help Schools Deliver Meals to Low-Income Students

Washington, D.C.— U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) led a letter that was signed by 34 of their colleagues, including Senator Angus King (I-ME), to urge the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to continue critical flexibilities that have allowed students to access 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.”


To help ensure school meal program directors and staff have the certainty that they need to begin preparing for the upcoming school year, the Senators are urging the USDA to extend a variety of waivers that will help ensure low-income students can access school-provided meals throughout the upcoming school year.  Additionally, the Senators are calling on the USDA to reimburse schools for the transportation costs for delivering meals to low-income students.


In addition to Senators Collins, Hassan, and King, the letter was signed by Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tom Carper (D-DE), Bob Casey (D-PA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Doug Jones (D-AL), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Ed Markey (D-MA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Gary Peters (D-MI), Jack Reed (D-RI), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Tina Smith (D-MN), Tom Udall (D-NM), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).


Earlier this year, all four members of Maine’s Congressional Delegation wrote USDA in support of flexibility around area eligibility requirements, which was critical to maintaining children’s access to meals during the COVID-19 pandemic. Last month, the Delegation wrote USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue again to express their full support for a request by the Maine Department of Education for a waiver extension, which was successfully extended through the end of the summer. This importantly allows schools and local partners to offer free meals to children throughout the summer, regardless of where they live.


Click HERE to read the full letter.