USDA Extends Free Meals for Kids for Entire School Year

Flexibilities now available through June 30, 2021

(Mt. Wolf, PA, Oct. 9, 2020) – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced today that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is extending flexibilities to allow free meals to continue to be available to all children throughout the entire 2020-2021 school year. This unprecedented move is part of USDA’s unwavering commitment to ensuring all children across America have access to nutritious food as the nation recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As our nation recovers and reopens, we want to ensure that children continue to receive the nutritious breakfasts and lunches they count on during the school year wherever they are and however they are learning,” said Secretary Perdue. “We are grateful for the heroic efforts by our school food service professionals who are consistently serving healthy meals to kids during these trying times, and we know they need maximum flexibility right now. I appreciate President Trump for his unwavering commitment to ensuring kids receive the food they need during this pandemic and for supporting USDA  in continuing to provide these unprecedented flexibilities.”

“Northeastern School District has implemented the USDA waiver to offer all students free meals utilizing the SSO program. We have been able to offer free meals to all students in-person (Brick & Mortar) and through Curbside pick-up for virtual students. I am extremely proud of my staff and their flexibility to do their best to keep school meals as normal as possible during a pandemic. The Child Nutrition Staff have wanted to continue hot meals for students and wanted to offer their favorite meal choices,” said Kimberly Alessandroni, Director of Child Nutrition Services, Northeastern School District.

“These waiver extensions are great news for America’s students and the school nutrition professionals working so hard to support them throughout this pandemic,” said School Nutrition Association President Reggie Ross, SNS. “Families struggling to make ends meet can be assured that their students will have access to healthy school meals, whether they are learning at home or in school. School meal programs can remain focused on safely meeting nutritional needs of children in their communities without having to worry about burdensome regulations. The School Nutrition Association appreciates USDA’s ongoing efforts to address the many challenges our members have faced while working on the frontlines to feed hungry children.”


USDA previously extended child nutrition waivers through December 2020 based upon available funding at the time. The flexibilities extended today will allow schools and other local program operators to continue to leverage the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and the Seamless Summer Option (SSO) to provide no cost meals to all children, available at over 90,000 sites across the country, through June 30, 2021.

USDA understands a one-size-fits-all approach is not an effective way to feed children, particularly during the current challenges facing our country. USDA can extend these waivers due to language in the continuing resolution signed into law by President Trump last week.  

USDA is extending waivers through June 30, 2021, that:

  • Allow SFSP and SSO meals to be served in all areas and at no cost;
  • Permit meals to be served outside of the typically required group settings and meal times;
  • Waive meal pattern requirements, as necessary; and
  • Allow parents and guardians to pick-up meals for their children.

These program flexibilities allow schools and local program operators to operate a meal service model that best meets their community’s unique needs, while keeping kids and staff safe. Additional flexibilities are being granted on a state-by-state basis, as required by law, to facilitate a wide range of meal service options and accommodate other operational needs.

Early in the pandemic, USDA adapted its summer feeding site finder to ensure parents and children would be able to easily locate sites that were providing meal service. With this new announcement, the Meals for Kids interactive site finder will continue to collect data, voluntarily provided by USDA’s state agency partners, about operating sites including location, meal service times, and additional information.

Don’t Forget!

Help us spread the word about the ECHA County Food Guides by posting our graphic and caption to your social media accounts on Friday, October 9th!

Copy and Paste this Caption:

“Alabama families don’t have to go hungry.  

The End Child Hunger in Alabama (ECHA) County Food Guides provide detailed lists of local food resources, organized by county!  Visit, click on your county, and find the help you need: child nutrition, options for seniors, food pantries, farmers markets, and more.  

We know that times are tough for many of Alabama’s citizens, but help is available!  Find it at

(Also, don’t forget that you can request postcards to share from your organization at!)

Upcoming Webinar from the Alabama Campus Coalition for Basic Needs

Policies to Address Student Financial Insecurity

Join us next Thursday, October 15 for a presentation from Dr. Jonathan Cellon on policies to address student financial insecurity.  

The issue of college student financial insecurity has risen to the political agenda of post-secondary institutions and states since the Recession of 2007 – 2009. As awareness to student financial need has increased, new programs and policies to address student need have been created by institutions and states. This webinar will focus on the actions of three states who were the first in the United States to advance a particular policy model to address college student financial insecurity by exploring the actions of networks made up of advocates, institutions, non-profits, and policymakers. Lessons from these states will be highlighted relative to the ongoing work in AL by ACCBN to address the basic needs of students. 
When: Thursday, October 15, 2020, 1-3pm CDT
Hosted by: Dr. Jonathan Cellon, Associate Dean of First Year Studies, Troy University 

Zoom Connectivity Information
Join from PC, Mac, Linux, iOS or Android:

Meeting ID: 922 3396 2366

Or Telephone: Meeting ID: 922 3396 2366

    Dial: +1 301 715 8592 (US Toll) 

        or +1 312 626 6799 (US Toll)

Help us Spread the Word!

The ECHA County Food Guide Project provides a detailed and comprehensive list of food resources to Alabama residents, organized by county.  A reliable team of hard-working volunteers ensure the database remains up-to-date with resources for children, seniors, and any resident who may be in crisis during these unprecedented times.  

Will you help us get the word out about the ECHA County Food Guides by posting the image and caption below on your social media account(s) on Friday, October 9th

We want to flood the feeds of friends and followers with news about this invaluable resource!

STEP 1 – Download the Social Media Image below!

STEP 2 – Copy and Paste the following caption for your post!

“Alabama families don’t have to go hungry.  

The End Child Hunger in Alabama (ECHA) County Food Guides provide detailed lists of local food resources, organized by county!  Visit, click on your county, and find the help you need: child nutrition, options for seniors, food pantries, farmers markets, and more.  

We know that times are tough for many of Alabama’s citizens, but help is available!  Find it at

STEP 3 – Hit “Post” and pat yourself on the back for sharing this resource with Alabama citizens!

SNAP Benefit Increase Takes Effect

WASHINGTON – October 1, 2020 – The previously announced 5.3% cost of living increase to the maximum benefit amounts for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) takes effect today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reminded. As a result, SNAP households will likely see an increase in their benefits starting this month.

Nearly all states have opted to automatically provide all SNAP households the maximum benefit for their household size under legislation passed in response to the pandemic. Therefore, with the increased maximum benefit amounts, a typical household of four will receive $680 a month, up from their previous amount of $646 per month, in addition to any benefits they receive from other nutrition assistance programs.

“The higher maximum monthly benefits will help ensure SNAP participants continue to have access to nutritious food during these unprecedented times,” said USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service Administrator Pam Miller. “These individuals and families are also eligible for other FNS programs that are helping to meet an increased need.”


The Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 mandates that maximum SNAP benefit allotments for each fiscal year (October through September) be adjusted to reflect the average cost of the Thrifty Food Plan in the proceeding June. The June 2020 Cost of Food Report revealed a 5.3% increase in the cost of the Thrifty Food Plan from last year, which is more than double the 20-year annual average increase of 2%, accounting for the rise in food costs.

The FY 2021 maximum SNAP allotments for the District of Columbia and all states other than Alaska and Hawaii are as follows:

Household SizeMaximum Monthly Allotment
Each additional person$153

Maximum SNAP allotments are different for Alaska, Guam, Hawaii, and the U.S. Virgin Islands; those amounts can be found here.

Currently, as authorized by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, nearly all states are also providing SNAP households with emergency allotments in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. These supplements bring benefit amounts for all SNAP households up to the maximum allotment for their household size, which will be higher beginning today.

SNAP households are also eligible for other USDA programs to help fulfill their nutrition needs. For example, SNAP participants may be able to receive:

  • Free school meals – Thanks to flexibilities provided by USDA, schools and other sites are currently able to provide meals at no cost to all children through FNS’ summer meal programs. Families can find meals at more than 87,000 locations across the country using FNS’ “Meals 4 Kids” interactive site finder.
  • WIC benefits – The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provides food, health care referrals, and nutrition education to low-income pregnant and postpartum women, infants, and children up to age five who are at nutritional risk.
  • Pandemic EBT – A new benefit, authorized in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, provides families of children who normally receive free or reduced-price meals at school with food-buying benefits similar to SNAP. In an average month, it provides an additional $114 per month, per child.
  • CSFP food boxes – The Commodity Supplemental Food Program provides boxes of nutritious, USDA-purchased foods to low-income seniors. ·
  • Support from food banks – Food banks often serve as the first line of defense against food insecurity for those in immediate need. USDA provides food and administrative funds to states, who in turn provide support to distributing agencies like food banks, through The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP). USDA has provided significant support to food banks throughout the pandemic.

USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service 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. Follow us on Twitter at @USDANutrition.