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USDA expands free meal program for all kids

The USDA has made it easier for caregivers to feed kids this fall.

SEATTLE — The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has extended its free summer meal program to help feed kids throughout the year, regardless of where they go to school and regardless of their income status.

The U.S Secretary of Agriculture extended several flexibilities that allow summer meal programs to be extended into the fall. The move allows children, no matter the circumstance, to have access to nutritious food during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

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The extension means children have ensured meals whether they are learning in the classroom or virtually. Families also do not have to qualify for free meals.

Even though the meals are operated by schools, some districts have different guidelines for getting meals to caregivers.

In Seattle, some students are being offered meals by bus, while others can pick up a sack breakfast and lunch at various school sites. Seattle Public Schools also offer weekend meal support.

Bremerton schools also offer bus distribution and school pick up. Everett is even offering daily meal delivery to homes.

Some school districts like Shoreline, Tacoma, and Bellevue offer weekly pickups with 10 meals for each child.

Any child younger than 18 can get free breakfast and lunch packs. Many schools offer vegetarian options, and children do not need to be enrolled in school districts to participate -- meaning, some children who are enrolled in private schools or are not old enough to attend school are still eligible.

Meals are provided at no cost because of the USDA program. The waiver will be in effect as late as December 31, 2020, depending on available funding.

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