Hunger-fighting groups in Ohio and other states are asking Congress to extend waivers that are helping to feed children as the coronavirus pandemic rages on.
Roughly half of Ohio school districts are starting fall classes either fully or partially remote, which makes it more difficult for traditional school-based nutrition programs to reach children in need.
Kimmy LoVano, director of advocacy and public education for the Greater Cleveland Food Bank, says greater flexibility is needed for take home, pick-up or meal distribution programs.
"The less red tape there is around these programs, the more efficiently we can get meals out to kids, especially as things change," she states. "If schools are open now but they close later on in the fall, having some of these waivers in place now will make it significantly easier to for us to respond."
More than 1,300 organizations have signed a letter asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture to extend several waivers through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to ensure continued access to meals in the school year.
One example, says LoVano, is the need for a waiver to allow after-school meal programs to skip the enrichment activity that is currently required.
"It's difficult to require kids to do an activity when kids can't be in close proximity to one another, and when we're providing a grab-and-go meal," she points out.
LoVano also maintains, with record numbers of Ohioans turning to food banks for assistance, that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program should be strengthened.
"For every one meal that is provided by food banks, SNAP provides nine," she points out. "So, SNAP is a critical tool in fighting the high rates of food insecurity that we're seeing.
"So, that has to really be the priority as Congress moves forward on this next COVID package."
The groups are also calling on Congress to extend the Pandemic EBT program, which provides assistance for families to buy groceries when school isn't in session.