USDA Announces Online Tool to Help Families Find Meals for Kids During COVID-19 Emergency
Interactive map finds free meals during school closures
WASHINGTON, April 3, 2020 –The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced the launch of an online tool – the “Meals for Kids” Site Finder – to help families find meals for children while schools are closed during the coronavirus pandemic. This is the latest in a series of swift actions USDA has taken to keep children and low-income individuals fed during the ongoing health crisis. The “Meals for Kids” interactive map directs people to local sites where kids can get free meals. The site finder currently lists more than 20,000 meal sites from 23 states, and more sites will be added as states submit data each week. The map is available in both English and Spanish at www.fns.usda.gov/meals4kids. “The Trump Administration is committed to ensuring that America’s children get the nutrition they need during this difficult time. Given that millions of kids rely on school meals as their main source of nutrition, ‘Meals for Kids’ will be an invaluable resource to keep kids fed and healthy,” said USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Brandon Lipps. “Public-private partnerships can be a powerful tool in maximizing the reach of our programs. We’re committed to exploring all innovative solutions that make it easier for children to get the food they need.” USDA is also making the data available to developers, to incorporate in other applications. For example, Food Finder and Nutrislice, have both developed innovative solutions to increase nationwide access to these critical free meals. Food Finder will display USDA’s Meals for Kids locations on their web and mobile app, while Nutrislice is offering their mobile ordering and meal locator solutions for free to hundreds of schools nationwide. Recently, USDA has announced a collaboration with Baylor University and other private partners to deliver nearly 1,000,000 meals per week to children in rural communities. We are excited to update that our partners got the first boxes out and students are getting meals for the coming week. Since the outset of the coronavirus outbreak, USDA has provided states with broad flexibilities to ensure the continuation of meal service during COVID-19 related school closures. These actions include:
Granting nationwide waivers allowing parents to pick-up meals for their kids in all states;
Allowing states to operate meal sites that are open to all children, in all areas, including those that are not low-income (i.e. where less than 50% of children receive free or reduced-price meals);
Delaying administrative deadlines associated with the Community Eligibility Provision and other monitoring and reporting requirements to ease burdens on schools that are currently closed due to COVID-19;
Making it easier for sites to provide multiple meals at once by waiving meal times requirements; and
Waiving requirement that afterschool meals and snacks served through certain programs include educational activities, in order to minimize exposure to the coronavirus.
As a reminder to all Americans, the USDA National Hunger Hotline remains a helpful resource for people seeking food assistance. The hotline, operated by Hunger Free America, can be reached Monday through Friday between 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. ET. at 1-866-3-HUNGRY (1-866-348-6479) or 1-877-8-HAMBRE (1-877-842-6273) (for Spanish). To learn more about FNS’s response to COVID-19, visit www.fns.usda.gov/coronavirus and follow us on Twitter at @USDANutrition. USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) 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.