Senator Stabenow Joins Michigan Education Officials to Call for School Meal Flexibility to Feed Children

After USDA’s refusal to take action, Michigan leaders call on USDA to reverse its decision and extend all flexibilities to provide school meals during the school year

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

LANSING, Mich. – U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, joined Michigan State Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice, Michigan State Board of Education President Dr. Casandra Ulbrich, and two local school superintendents to urge the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to reverse its decision and take action to provide healthy meals to students for the duration of the school year.


“Over 30 million children in Michigan and across the country rely on school meals,” said Senator Stabenow. “As we start the new school year, we should be doing everything we can to make it easier for our students to access the food they need to learn and thrive. The USDA can and should take action to help schools keep our children from going hungry during this unprecedented crisis.”


“The failure to continue spring and summer waivers into the school year will have a very harmful effect on our children and families, who are already struggling during the pandemic,” said State Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice. “To limit the necessary feeding of children at any time is reprehensible. In a pandemic, it is an outrage.”


In the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, Congress granted authority to the USDA to issue waivers so schools and community sponsors could provide school meals to children during the COVID-19 pandemic. The USDA has stopped short of extending all available flexibilities that keep children fed while schools are closed and also reduce administrative burdens for schools.


These flexibilities would make meal service easier in a number of ways, including allowing schools to provide meals at one pick location rather than making parents go to different schools if they have multiple children. It would also allow community organizations like the Boys and Girls Club and YMCA to continue providing school meals to students in childcare if their school is on a rotational schedule.


In a letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on August 14, Stabenow joined Congressman Robert C. "Bobby" Scott (VA-03), Chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Education and Labor, to urge the USDA to take action and use its full authority to provide healthy meals to students for the duration of the school year. Secretary Perdue responded on August 20 and refused to extend waivers that allowed states and schools to more seamlessly operate through the emergency summer meal programs. Stabenow and Scott will be sending a follow up letter denouncing USDA’s inaction and calling for the Department to reverse its harmful decision.