Pa. asks for extended food assistance as kids return to schools remotely

Food assistance
Photo credit Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images
PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Funding for programs, like feeding school students amid the pandemic, will run out at the end of the month if federal officials do not act.

Leaders in Pennsylvania are asking that the program be extended to help kids as they transition into remote learning.

The number of Pennsylvania children facing food insecurity is expected to rise by 23.8% this year, according to state Agricultural Secretary Russell Redding. They’re trying to prevent that from happening.

“You can't feed a hungry mind on an empty stomach. Unfortunately with continued unemployment, we know more families are facing hunger,” he said. “School-age children should not have to worry about where their next meal is coming.”

In an effort to make sure kids are properly fed while learning from home, Redding and other state officials are asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture to extend a number of waiver programs.

“They would significantly reduce the administrative burdens, limit the confusion on where meals can be accessed, and allow meals to be provided at locations most convenient to families,” he added.

Department of Education Deputy Secretary Pam Smith noted these waivers have been working during the pandemic. 

“When COVID-19 triggered the statewide school closure last spring, working together and using federal waivers, more than 24 million meals were served to Pennsylvania students to ensure they maintained access to life-sustaining food,” she said.

Department of Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller said it's imperative that these waivers, which have been in place since the spring, are extended.

“Going without essential needs like food, to get by now, can jeopardize a person's health both in the short and long term,” she said. “Those long-term effects will outlive the current public health crisis.”

If extended, these federal waivers would go to not just Pennsylvania students, but children across the country.