(WASHINGTON) – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is working to be as flexible as possible to get food out to the people who need it during the COVID-19 National Emergency. On Wednesday, March 18, President Donald J. Trump signed into law the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which includes billions of dollars in nutrition assistance for children and families. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue is taking swift action to implement these new provisions and ensure children and families are fed. USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) launched a new webpage – www.fns.usda.gov/coronavirus – to provide key information on COVID-19 nutrition assistance for program operators and the public alike.
USDA is working quickly and closely with states to best serve program participants. The new webpage supports transparency and efficiency, serving as a one-stop-shop for:
- Tips from MyPlate for food planning during social distancing,
- Fraud alerts to protect Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants from COVID-19-related scams,
- Guidance from MyPlate for families trying to plan shopping trips during this pandemic,
- Information on the state and nationwide waivers USDA has approved,
- Interactive state maps with the flexibilities requested by each state and the status of those requests,
- Guidance on the new flexibilities and activities USDA is allowing under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, and more.
The website update is just the latest in a series of actions the Food and Nutrition Service has taken to support our program participants and the states that administer our programs. With new authority provided by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, signed into law by President Trump on March 18, 2020, USDA has issued nationwide waivers for child nutrition programs such as the National School Lunch Program and the Summer Food Service Program, temporarily eliminating the requirement that meals be served in group settings and loosening restrictions on the time of day meals are served and the number of meals that can be served at one time.
Also under the act, USDA is expanding benefits by:
- Allowing additional flexibility in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) to support social distancing and ensure participants can still purchase food when certain items are out of stock;
- Providing flexibility for jobless workers to remain eligible for SNAP benefits;
- Allowing states to issue emergency supplements to SNAP households;
- Providing $100 million for Puerto Rico, American Samoa, and the Northern Marina Islands for increases in their Nutrition Assistance Programs; and much more.
Last week, Secretary Perdue announced a collaboration with the Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty, McLane Global, PepsiCo, and others to deliver nearly 1,000,000 meals per week to students in a limited number of rural schools closed due to COVID-19. These boxes will contain five days’ worth of shelf-stable, nutritious, individually packaged foods that meet USDA’s summer food requirements. The use of this innovative delivery system will ensure rural children receive nutritious food while limiting exposure to COVID-19.
USDA continues to provide extensive technical assistance to state agencies to make it as easy as possible for states to aid program participants. This includes, for example, templates for requesting waivers, tailored guidance, and webinars for state program staff.
All Food and Nutrition Service programs – including SNAP, WIC, and the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs – have flexibilities and contingencies built-in to allow them to respond to on-the-ground realities in the event of a disaster or emergency situation. For more information about the USDA-wide response, please visit: www.usda.gov/coronavirus. USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) administers 15 nutrition assistance programs that leverage American’s agricultural abundance to ensure children and low-income individuals and families have nutritious food to eat. FNS also co-develops the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which provide science-based nutrition recommendations and serve as the cornerstone of federal nutrition policy.