Pennsylvania First Lady Frances Wolf and 17 other First Spouses and Partners sent a letter to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Congressional Leadership, urging both federal entities to continue to work together to further extend and fully fund child nutrition program operations throughout the entire 2020-21 school year. The letter was also signed by:
- First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom, California
- First Gentleman Marlon Reis, Colorado
- First Lady Tracey Quillen Carney, Delaware
- First Lady Dawn Amano-Ige, Hawaii
- First Lady MK Pritzker, Illinois
- First Gentleman Dr. Ted Daughety, Kansas
- First Lady Britainy Beshear, Kentucky
- First Lady Lauren Baker, Massachusetts
- First Lady Gwen Walz, Minnesota
- First Lady Lisa Bullock, Montana
- First Lady Tammy Snyder Murphy, New Jersey
- First Lady Kristin Cooper, North Carolina
- First Gentleman Andy Moffit, Rhode Island
- First Lady Pamela Northam, Virginia
- First Lady Trudi Inslee, Washington
- First Lady Kathy Evers, Wisconsin
- First Lady Jennie Gordon, Wyoming
Together, the signatories represent over 30 million children across the country.
“Hunger is not a partisan issue; it is everyone’s issue. When we look at how many other state leaders were willing to put their names on the dotted line, we get a glimpse of how many other children and families are struggling to get food,” stated First Lady Wolf. “We understand that the parties we have written to have taken steps to continue these feeding programs, and we thank them for their effort. However, as we cannot see the end of the pandemic, when families financial situations will be back to normal, or when our education system will stabilize, it is imperative that we plan to assist our residents for as long as we can.”
In late August, the USDA announced the extension of nationwide waivers that allow schools and community partners to continue serving meals to all children at no charge until the available funding runs out, or as late as December 31, 2020.
While the actions of the USDA throughout the pandemic, including this most recent motion, have helped tremendously with feeding children and families across the nation, recent food insecurity statistics remain alarming. According to Feeding America research, more than 54 million people, including 18 million children, may experience food insecurity this year, marking a 46 percent increase in general food insecurity rates and a 64 percent increase in child food insecurity rates compared to pre-COVID-19 statistics.
Without Congressional action, the USDA’s authority to extend school feeding waivers and other crucial feeding programs will sunset on September 30, 2020, leaving families, schools, and community partners without the tools and resources they need to feed kids during this pandemic.
Share Our Strength, an organization that works to end hunger and poverty in the United States and abroad through campaigns like No Kid Hungry, has also been advocating for the extension of these critical waivers alongside more than 1,300 national and state-based organizations working to feed children and their families.
“Schools and community organizations need child nutrition waivers extended through the end of the academic year so they can plan and prepare their meal programs. And, with anywhere from 14 million to 17 million children not getting the food they need because of the pandemic, kids need the certainty of a nutritious meal,” says Lisa Davis, Senior Vice President of Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign. “Our nation’s First Spouses and Partners, who are fierce champions for children in their states, understand the scope of the hunger crisis this pandemic has caused in their communities. They know that extending child nutrition waivers through the entire 2020-2021 school year is critical to getting our nation back on the path to ending hunger.”