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Education Department Recognizes School and Community Efforts to Feed Students During National School Lunch Week

10/14/2020

Harrisburg, PA - As schools approach the end of their first marking periods while adjusting to instruction during the pandemic, the Department of Education (PDE) is reminding educators, students and their caregivers that free school meals are now available to students for the remainder of the academic year.

The recent announcement by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to extend these flexibilities coincides with National School Lunch Week (Oct. 12 -16) and underscores the importance of food security to student health and achievement.

“Access to nutritious foods leads to good health and gives students the energy needed to focus on their schoolwork,” said Acting Secretary of Education Noe Ortega. “Food security continues to be a priority for the department and vital to our strategy for dealing with the global pandemic.

“From the onset of this crisis, our schools and their communities joined together to make sure that all students had access to food. Whether students are learning from home or are attending school in person, access to nutritious meals is imperative.”

From March through August of this year, Pennsylvania schools provided more than 25 million meals to children in need.

The USDA announced on Oct. 9 that it was extending the date on school feeding program waivers through June 30, 2021. The waivers allow school feeding programs to avoid unnecessary barriers as they navigate health and safety concerns, staff limitations, technical restrictions, time constraints and more.

In Pennsylvania, 2.04 million Pennsylvanians, including nearly 630,000 children, face food insecurity. This marks an increase of 45.2 percent to the general food security rate and a 57.6 percent increase to the child food insecurity rate when compared to 2018 statistics.

During his tenure, Governor Wolf has made combating hunger a priority. Since the establishment of the Governor’s Food Security Partnership in 2015, the Wolf Administration has worked to make it easier for individuals to access benefits, improve access to WIC and the Farmers Market Nutrition Program, increase knowledge of summer feeding programs, promote access to breakfast in schools, grow public-private partnerships through the creation of local food alliances, increase access to healthy food, improve access to employment and training services, grow food security programs within the Medicaid system, and more.

More information about the Wolf Administration’s food security efforts amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and links to resources and assistance are available on the Department of Agriculture’s website.

MEDIA CONTACT: Eric Levis, PDE - 717-783-9802 or elevis@pa.gov

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