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USDA Makes it Easier to Feed Kids and Those Who Need Food During the COVID-19 National Emergency

Nationwide waivers grant states the flexibility to allow parent pick-up of meals for kids, ease burdens on local meal providers

Press Release
Release No.
USDA 0215.20
Contact: FNS Press Team

Washington, DC, March 26, 2020 – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced additional flexibilities to make it easier for children, seniors and individuals with disabilities to get food during the COVID-19 national emergency and remove administrative roadblocks for the dedicated local staff who serve them. These changes are in line with USDA's commitment to keep Americans safe, secure, and healthy during this national emergency and explore all options to keep kids fed during this unprecedented time.

"USDA is committed to maximizing our services and flexibilities to ensure children and others who need food can get it during this Coronavirus epidemic,” said Secretary Perdue. “This is a challenging time for many Americans, but it is reassuring to see our Government and fellow Americans stepping up to the challenges facing us to make sure kids and those facing hunger are fed.”


Under one of the newly-announced waivers, USDA is giving states the option to allow parents or guardians to take meals home to their children. Typically, children would need to be present to receive a meal through USDA's child nutrition programs.

However, USDA recognizes that this may not be practical during the current COVID-19 outbreak. This flexibility is also available for states to assist seniors and individuals with disabilities served through the Child and Adult Care Food Program. Additional nationwide flexibilities announced today include:

  • Allowing states to waive meal pattern requirements, so local operators can create meals with the foods they have available; and
  • Delaying administrative deadlines associated with the Community Eligibility Provision to ease burdens on schools that are currently closed due to COVID-19.

Since the outset of the COVID-19 outbreak, USDA has been working tirelessly with states and local authorities to ensure schools and other program operators are empowered to continue feeding children. These flexibilities complement previously-announced nationwide actions that temporarily waive:

  • Meal times requirements to make meal pick-up easier,
  • Requirements that meals be served in group settings to support social distancing, and
  • The requirement that afterschool meals and snacks served through certain programs be accompanied by educational activities to minimize exposure to the novel coronavirus.

USDA will continue to provide technical assistance to help state agencies swiftly implement these flexibilities.

Today's announcement is the latest in a series of actions that USDA's Food and Nutrition Service has taken to uphold the USDA's commitment to “Do Right and Feed Everyone” during this national emergency. Other actions include:

  • Launching a new coronavirus webpage to proactively inform the public about USDA's efforts to keep children and families fed;
  • Investing in a public-private partnership to feed rural children impacted by school closures due to COVID-19;
  • Allowing states to issue Pandemic EBT (electronic benefits transfer, similar to food stamps) to families of children eligible for free or reduced-price meals dealing with school closures;
  • Providing administrative flexibilities in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) to allow for social distancing; and
  • Allowing states to issue emergency supplemental SNAP benefits to increase recipients' purchasing power during the national emergency.

These actions and more are part of USDA's focus on service during the COVID-19 outbreak. To learn more about FNS's response to COVID-19, visit

USDA's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) 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.

Page updated: November 22, 2023