Schools Struggle to Get Meals to Their Students During Pandemic

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Behind schools’ struggle to get meals to their students

As classes restart remotely, educators are worried about whether or not students from low-income households are getting the meals they would be if schools were back in session physically, NPR reports. Of the children who qualify for free or reduced-price school meals, only about 15 percent are actually getting that food.

Since spring, many districts have shifted to their summer food distribution programs, in which, typically, families can drop by certain schools between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. to pick up lunch bags. This has been helped by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s expanded flexibility that enables any child to get a meal, regardless of whether or not they actually attend that school. While these waivers and their extension through the end of the year have been applauded, schools are still serving significantly fewer meals than they would be during a normal school term, likely in part because there’s still the major hurdle of requiring families to physically show up at a designated pick-up site at a certain time. As NPR reports:

Often, parents and caregivers have to work, and can’t get away in the middle of the day. Or they don’t have a way to get to the designated pick-up site. Or they’re not comfortable making daily food runs in a pandemic.

In the face of this challenge, some school nutrition directors are attempting to deliver meals across their districts, although they’re hindered by financial difficulties. Another potential solution would be to extend the Pandemic EBT program, which allowed families to receive the value of school meals directly on a debit card or on their existing SNAP (food stamps) debit cards. As helpful as the USDA’s efforts to feed America through flexible school meal distribution and food banks, experts say that the most effective way to address hunger across the country would be to increase funding for SNAP.

And in other news…

  • The International Commission on Microbiological Specifications for Food (ICMSF), an organization of scientific experts on food contamination and safety, echo the WHO, the CDC, and the FDA in saying that there is no evidence so far that food, food packaging, or food handling is a source for the coronavirus. “The focus for food businesses should be on protecting food workers, consumers and restaurant patrons from becoming infected by person-to-person SARS-CoV-2 spread,” the ICMSF wrote in a statement. [CNN]
  • Wineries and farms whose businesses have been decimated by the pandemic are turning to renting out their land as campsites. [CNBC]
  • Some rural California farmers were left to battle wildfires on their own. [Modern Farmer]
  • The $7.3 billion acquisition of Grubhub by Netherlands-based company Just Eat Takeaway now has an estimated completion date of December 31, 2021. [The Street]
  • Golden Corral AYCE in the time of COVID-19. [Business Insider]

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