(Washington, D.C., March 13, 2020) – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue issued this statement following President Donald J. Trump’s Declaration of a National Emergency in response to the COVID-19 outbreak:
“President Trump continues to take decisive action to ensure the safety, security, and health of the American people by declaring a National Emergency in response to the Coronavirus,” said Secretary Perdue. “USDA has already taken action to ensure children are fed in the event of school closures, and we continue to waive restrictions and expand flexibilities across our programs. As a nation, we must remain vigilant, pull together, put any kind of partisanship aside, and do what needs to be done for the American people.”
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 Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming and USDA has granted those requests.