OLYMPIA—August 21, 2020—This morning, OSPI learned that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) will not be extending the nationwide waiver that allows schools to serve free meals to students across Washington without income verification.

We are disappointed by this decision. Now more than ever, vulnerable families and students need healthy, nutritious meals. We will continue to pursue an individual Washington state waiver, and I implore Congress to include authorization and funding for this essential program.

After $4 trillion in COVID-19 response, the last thing we should be debating is the essential food for our fellow Americans impacted by this global pandemic.

Amid considerable changes to our system, school nutrition programs have adapted. During last spring’s emergency school closure, districts provided over 28 million nutritious meals to students, and used innovative new methods of providing them, including delivery and grab and go meals. Adding additional barriers will create an exceptionally challenging environment for nutrition programs, and lead to a rise in hunger in Washington’s communities.

OSPI is committed to ensuring the nutritional needs of our students are met, and we will continue to seek an individual state waiver that will allow Washington to continue providing meals at no charge for any family in need during this unprecedented time.

In the meantime, we encourage families to check with their local school district regarding meal services and to complete and submit an application for free or reduced-price meals to their local school.