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Wittman calls on USDA to extend food program for students in need

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Washington, July 31, 2020 | comments

WASHINGTON – This week, Congressman Rob Wittman (VA-01) sent a letter to United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue urging the Department to extend the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), also known as the Summer Meals Program, until January 1, 2021, for eligible school food authorities.

“I write on behalf of all students in Virginia’s First Congressional District who depend on free and reduced school meal programs to ensure they receive meals throughout school closures and distance-learning programs related to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak,” Congressman Wittman wrote. “[W]ith most school districts in VA-01 opting for completely virtual learning or a hybrid of virtual and in-person instruction, it is critical that we ensure no student goes hungry or fears when and where they will get their next meal.”

Congressman Wittman’s letter follows another sent earlier this week to Congressional Leadership requesting the inclusion of temporary and targeted liability protections for academic institutions, administration, and teachers related to the COVID-19 pandemic in the upcoming Coronavirus relief package. Additionally, he sent two letters to Congressional Leadership advocating for additional support to families, children and child care providers: the first letter requested greater flexibility for families utilizing Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA), and the second letter encouraged Congress to provide additional federal relief for child care providers in the next COVID-19 relief package.

Congressman Wittman’s continued work for educators, administrators, students, and hardworking Virginia families comes at a critical juncture with the start of the new academic school year approaching, negotiations over the next Coronavirus relief package, and millions of Americans still dealing with the economic impacts of COVID-19 on their household budget. Additional relief through the extension of SFSP would be a help to ease the burden of American families.

Click here or scroll below to read Congressman Wittman’s letter in full:

 

The Honorable Sonny Perdue

Secretary

U.S. Department of Agriculture

Washington, D.C.

 

Dear Secretary Perdue:

I appreciate the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service’s (USDA-FNS) efforts to ensure children have access to nutritious food during the COVID-19 pandemic. I write on behalf of all students in Virginia’s First Congressional District (VA-01) who depend on free and reduced school meal programs to ensure they receive meals throughout school closures and distance-learning programs related to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak. I urge the USDA to extend the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) until January 1, 2021, for eligible school food authorities. The SFSP provides kids and teens in low-income areas much-needed free meals when students do not physically attend school. 

In March, Governor Ralph Northam declared a State of Emergency and a Public Health Emergency for the Commonwealth of Virginia. In an effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and safeguard the health of our students, teachers, staff, and administrators, all school districts stopped in-person instruction. Moreover, with most school districts in VA-01 opting for completely virtual learning or a hybrid of virtual and in-person instruction, it is critical that we ensure no student goes hungry or fears when and where they will get their next meal. 

I applaud the USDA’s spring decision to waive program requirements, including waiving the group setting meal requirement, to ensure states have the needed flexibility to safely administer school meal programs during COVID-19. I encourage the USDA to give full and fair consideration to extend the authority to the Commonwealth of Virginia to allow eligible school food authorities to serve students meals through the SFSP during COVID-19 related closures. The purpose of this program is to provide meals to low-income students that otherwise might not have access to proper nutrition. With the current SFSP program extension expiring in one month, schools face a pressing need that requires attention and action. I urge the USDA to extend this authority until January 1, 2021.

During this public health emergency, the last thing Virginia students need is to worry about when and where they are going to get their next meal. Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to working with you to meet the needs of VA-01 students and families by providing the flexibility they need throughout this pandemic

 

Sincerely,

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