President Donald Trump signed legislation into law to prioritize helping Americans affected by the coronavirus. The package includes legislation sponsored by Kentucky First District Congressman James Comer to protect nationwide access to school meals during COVID-19-related school closures.
Comer introduced the bipartisan legislation last week alongside Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Oregon). He serves as the top Republican on the Education and Labor Committee’s Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Human Services.
“Due to the closure of schools related to the coronavirus, countless families have expressed concern about where their child’s next meal will come from. This legislation grants needed flexibility for school food service programs across the country to continue providing nutritious meals during this time of uncertainty,” Rep. Comer said. “With passage of this critically important measure, children nationwide will be able to maintain access to the meals they rely on for their health and well-being. I want to thank and recognize all of our school employees who are working tirelessly to ensure that students get fed.”
The COVID-19 Child Nutrition Response Act will allow the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to waive requirements for children to gather at schools in order for school officials and food service personnel to distribute reimbursable, nutritious meals. The legislation will also provide local school officials with discretion over substitutions for meal components if supply or procurement is disrupted.
In recent weeks, Congressman Comer has been in contact with school superintendents and food service directors about the need for additional flexibility and has been working with the Kentucky Department of Education and USDA to address those needs.
Leah Feagin, Food Service and School Nutrition Director for Mayfield Independent Schools, praised Congressman Comer’s attention and action on the issue.
“On behalf of our schools and students, I want to thank Congressman Comer for his hard work to address this pressing need facing our communities,” she said. “Thankfully, we have been able to utilize community resources and a federal waiver to continue distributing breakfast and lunch to our students. But this law will ensure that there is needed flexibility for our schools to look out for the nutritional needs of our children.”
Nearly 22 million children receive free or reduced-price lunches at their public schools. As of now, Kentucky schools remain closed for at least two weeks in attempt to halt the spread of the coronavirus.