Share Our Strength: Our Commitment to Families and Children during the Coronavirus Outbreak

We know many of you have questions about what we are doing to help low-income families and children impacted by COVID-19. Over the last week we have seen schools in several states and the District of Columbia closing. We also know that employees in some of the  industries that have been most impacted - such as travel and restaurants - often work for low wages and struggle to make ends meet. Any reduction in hours and wages can be devastating to their food security.

The federal nutrition programs - school and out of school meals, SNAP and WIC - are the front line of defense during disasters and economic downturns. They can respond on a scale significantly greater than private charity, though charity is important to filling the gaps in the reach of those programs. Therefore, our efforts to date have primarily focused on ensuring that those programs have the flexibility and resources they need to reach impacted children and families.

Priority number one is making sure that low-income school children continue to receive meals when their schools are closed and that affected schools have flexibility from the congregate site requirement, given the risk of large gatherings of people during a pandemic.

Our organization has moved swiftly, working across the organization, with hill staff and with our anti-hunger partners to engage Congressional leaders and the U.S. Department of Agriculture advocating for clear guidance and waivers from the congregate site and other requirements and guaranteeing reimbursement for all meals served to kids as a result of a school closures related to COVID-19.

Here is what Share Our Strength is doing to ensure that our partners have all the flexibility they need to help feed school children and support low-income families:

  • Sent a letter to USDA Secretary Perdue urging USDA to provide needed flexibilities, waivers, and reimbursements to meet the nutritional needs of kids during an unexpected school closure.
  • Met with key Congressional Committees to raise awareness about the importance of meeting the needs of low-income children during a pandemic school closure and policies required to accomplish this.
  • Recommending legislative options for Congress to consider and include in another supplemental spending bill or stimulus package.  These include increasing temporarily increasing SNAP benefits to help low-income families and stimulate the economy, expanding Summer EBT, providing non-congregate options for summer meals and making P-SNAP available for low-income families who experience income loss as a result of COVID-19.

The USDA has provided waivers to states that have requested them, Washington and California to date. Secretary Perdue also commented during a Congressional hearing that USDA will work with states on waiver requests, including helping them develop those requests, and reinforced its authority to waive the group meal requirement in a public health emergency. We are analyzing details and new developments continue to emerge in this rapidly evolving situation.

Share Our Strength is working closely with external partners and government staff to ensure that policies are in place to make sure that all impacted children can get the nutrition they need and to make sure that SNAP enrollment is maximized and benefits are increased to help stabilize family finances and local economies.

Over the coming days and weeks we will also explore where there might be opportunities to grant to schools and local organizations to support efforts to make sure kids are getting fed. Please let us know if you have any suggestions or questions.