(Washington, D.C., March 12, 2020) – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue issued this statement following President Donald J. Trump’s address to the nation regarding COVID-19:
“President Trump has made the safety, security, and health of the American people his top priority. The whole of government approach and the unprecedented, preemptive actions the President has taken continues to keep the risk of Coronavirus to most Americans low,” said Secretary Perdue. “This is a time we all need to remain ever vigilant, pull together, put any kind of partisanship aside, and do what we need to do for the American people. At USDA, we are working to ensure children who are affected by school closures continue to get fed. We intend to use all available program flexibilities and contingencies to serve those affected by the outbreak.”
Earlier this week, Secretary Perdue announced proactive flexibilities to allow meal service during school closures to minimize potential exposure to the coronavirus. You may click HERE to watch Secretary Perdue discuss the proactive flexibilities during the House Appropriations hearing. During an unexpected school closure, schools can leverage their participation in one of USDA’s summer meal programs to provide meals at no cost to students. Under normal circumstances, those meals must be served in a group setting. However, in a public health emergency, the law allows USDA the authority to waive the group setting meal requirement, which is vital during a social distancing situation.
USDA intends to use all available program flexibilities and contingencies to serve our program participants across our 15 nutrition programs. We have already begun to issue waivers to ease program operations and protect the health of participants. USDA is receiving requests for waivers on an ongoing basis. As of today, USDA has been asked to waive congregate feeding requirements in Washington, California, Maryland, Alaska, Utah, Pennsylvania, Wyoming, Maine, and Kansas and USDA has granted those requests.