BOSTON– Representative Christine P. Barber (D-34th Middlesex) of Somerville and Medford, led an effort along with Hannah Kane (R-11th Worcester) and Jay Livingstone (D-8th Suffolk District) that resulted in the extension of children’s meal sites throughout Massachusetts for the entire summer.
Rep. Barber partnered with Project Bread, an anti-hunger organization committed to providing all people with access to nutritious food, to organize her colleagues and request the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) extend the child nutrition program area eligibility waiver through the summer― allowing all meal sites for children to continue to operate after the school year.
In response to the COVID-19 crisis, the USDA granted several waivers to the Child Nutrition Programs, which have allowed school meal sites to expand their reach to more children in the community and to provide meals while complying with social distancing guidelines. These new rules allow meal sites to operate in areas where less than 50% of the student population receives free and reduced-price meals. This is particularly important, as data on household food security can be difficult to document, and current estimates of program need may not reflect the changing needs in many communities.
Without action taken by the USDA, the waiver was set to expire on June 30th. As a result, 217 Massachusetts communities with currently operating meal sites would have lost some or all of their meal sites as of July 1st. Meal sites in both Somerville and Medford were also in jeopardy of being impacted by the waiver’s expiration.
Representatives Barber, Kane, and Livingstone led a robust effort, resulting in 73 House and 21 Senate member signatures to a letter, sent to USDA, which emphasized the urgency in extending the area eligibility waiver through the summer.
On June 10th, the USDA announced that the area eligibility waivers will be extended until August 31st. This will allow thousands of children across the Commonwealth to continue to receive healthy meals throughout the summer.
“It is imperative that particularly during this time of crisis, meal sites in Somerville and Medford, and around the state, are able to continue feeding children through the summer,” said Representative Barber. “These meal sites have been critical in ensuring that children throughout Massachusetts get the food and nutrition they need. Without them, we risk further exacerbating an already alarming increase in food insecurity since the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Local meal site operators have also expressed their gratitude for the actions taken by legislators to prompt the USDA to extend the waiver. Debbie Amaral, Chief Executive Officer at the Malden YMCA stated, “The area eligibility waiver is incredibly important for the City of Medford. Without this waiver, the YMCA would be limited as to where we could offer lunches to children in Medford. Thank you, Representative Barber, for your leadership!”
You can find detailed information on student Grab-And-Go meals sites in Somerville listed on the Somerville Public Schools “Food Resources for Students and Families” webpage. Medford Grab-And-Go site locations and operating hours can be found on the City of Medford’s “Food Resources in Medford” website.