WASHINGTON, D.C. — United States Sens. Mazie K. Hirono and Brian Schatz, and U.S. Reps. Ed Case and Tulsi Gabbard, wrote to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, urging the USDA to provide additional resources for state agencies, school districts and nonprofits as they continue to serve meals to students in Hawai‘i and elsewhere during the coronavirus pandemic.
Earlier this year, the Hawai‘i congressional delegation wrote a letter requesting USDA extend child-nutrition flexibility waivers that have helped school districts and nonprofits feed additional students during the 2020-21 school year, which has been repeatedly interrupted due to the coronavirus.
Following the extension of these waivers, the delegation called for USDA to work with state agencies, school districts and nonprofits to help those organizations effectively implement the waivers, providing critical food to children. In their letter, the lawmakers detailed specific actions USDA could take to assist organizations in delivering these meals.
“In Hawai‘i, these waivers have helped the Hawai‘i Department of Education provide tens of thousands of meals per day at certain times during the pandemic. It was important for Congress and USDA to extend these waivers, and school districts like HIDOE have already indicated that they plan to continue using them,” the lawmakers wrote.
The legislators continued, “Now that these waivers have been extended, it is also important for USDA to work with school districts and nonprofits to make sure they have the resources to fully realize their benefits — particularly at a time when many school districts are still working to address the challenges associated with distance and hybrid learning, and districts and nonprofits are facing steep budget cuts.
“Given the potential for budget cuts, the federal government should be working with state and local governments during this time — especially to make sure they can feed students. USDA has a responsibility to make sure local communities can effectively use the child-nutrition waivers provided, and the department can take steps to support communities in need,” the lawmakers wrote.