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USDA makes it easier to feed children amid coronavirus outbreak

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The USDA has approved a request from California to allow meal service during school closures to minimize potential exposure to the coronavirus. These meals are available at no cost to low-income children — and are not required to be served in a group setting — to ensure kids receive nutritious meals while schools are temporarily closed.

The waiver announced today is effective immediately and will continue through June 30, 2020. USDA stands ready to provide additional assistance to the people of California and other areas impacted by the coronavirus as allowed by law and in coordination with the much larger government-wide response.

Many consumers are worried about the spread of the virus through food. According to the USDA website, “We are not aware of any reports at this time of human illnesses that suggest COVID-19 can be transmitted by food or food packaging. However, it is always important to follow good hygiene practices (i.e., wash hands and surfaces often, separate raw meat from other foods, cook to the right temperature, and refrigerate foods promptly) when handling or preparing foods.”

All Food and Nutrition Service programs — including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program; Special Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children; and the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs — have flexibilities and contingencies built-in to allow them to respond to on-the-ground realities in the event of a disaster or emergency situation. For more information about the coronavirus response across USDA, please visit their website.

The USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service 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.

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