WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) is among 20 Senators urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to exercise flexibility to ensure the availability of meals and other child nutrition benefits as schools open in Mississippi and around the country.

Hyde-Smith, who serves on the Senate Agriculture Committee and the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Committee, signed a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on behalf of schools and non-school sponsoring organizations that provide school meals and child nutrition.

“Children, who relied on federal nutrition programs last spring and throughout the summer, will continue to need that support whether their schools are open, offering online courses, or a hybrid format,” Hyde-Smith said.  “The USDA has adapted policies to meet the need, and that flexibility should continue as we work our way through COVID-19.” 

In COVID-19 response legislation enacted earlier this year, Congress provided the Agriculture Secretary with waiver authority to adjust child nutrition programs to provide meals to children during the pandemic.

In their letter to Perdue, the Senators wrote, “As the school year begins, the challenges brought on by the COVID emergency persist.  We encourage continued use of the child nutrition program waiver authority ably used thus far to assist school food authorities and non-school sponsoring organizations who work collaboratively to provide children meals while schools explore various and blended models of in-person and virtual classroom sessions.”

A signed copy of the Senators’ letter is available here.