During the COVID-19 pandemic, 47 percent of American families are living with hunger, according to a report by No Kid Hungry. For Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) families, the statistics are even higher.

At the beginning of the pandemic, schools worked to adapt to this rise in hunger, providing meals to students even after they closed their doors.

In addition to grab-and-go meals, some school districts provided week-long meal boxes with items like gallons of milk or trays of lasagna, while others used school buses to deliver food, Karen Spangler, Policy Director of the National Farm to School Network, tells Food Tank.

This food was available to students who previously qualified for Free or Reduced School Lunches through the National School Lunch Program. USDA Area Eligibility Waivers allowed schools to provide food services regardless of whether students were previously eligible, explains Spangler. This reduced the paperwork and administrative burden on schools, as they did not have to verify each student’s eligibility before providing food.

On October 9, the USDA announced they will expand waivers for the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and Seamless Summer Option (SSO) throughout the entire 2020-2021 school year. While both programs are typically summer feeding programs, these waivers allow for meals to be served for free for the rest of the school year.

Read the full article about free meals for school children by Stephanie Min and Hannah Schlueter at Food Tank.