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TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE PROVIDES GUIDANCE ON SCHOOL MEALS AS STUDENTS RETURN (9/17/2020)

(AUSTIN) This week Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller has provided additional guidance to the public, elected officials, and school leaders on how Texas will implement federal school meal programs in this state for the fall semester. This follows a broad announcement last week by USDA about availability and cost of school meals. The announcement from USDA can be read here: http://ow.ly/t7oT50BtNIt

"Thanks to the hard work of local school district operators, school nutrition staff and the Texas Department of Agriculture, all students will have access to school meals this fall in Texas," said Commissioner Miller. "We're doing things a little different here in Texas and school districts will be given the ability to choose the option that works best for their students. I'm a big believer in local control, and now more than ever, local school officials need the flexibility to respond to this pandemic in the way that best serves their community."

Under the announced TDA guidelines, school districts must choose from two meal service options, either the National School Lunch program or the extended Summer Meal Program. Each of these options comes with their own set of differing guidelines and the services provided may look different from district to district. However, thanks to the announcement from USDA and the guidance from the Texas Department of Agriculture, all schools can provide free meals to all enrolled students this fall.

Complete TDA guidelines can be found on the Texas Department of Agriculture Square Meals website.

"The good news here is that every child will have access to meals this fall," said Miller, "and while the options available might seem complex, local school districts have a partner in the Texas Department of Agriculture to help them through this process. For all parents of Texas schoolchildren, I urge you to reach out to your local school district to find out what school meal options are available for your children."

The Texas Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition Division administers 12 federal child and special nutrition programs for the State of Texas and is responsible for ensuring meals are available to over 5 million Texas students every day. TDA supports providers of nutrition assistance by helping ensure accountability and the efficient use of taxpayer dollars to nourish Texans in need.

"The Texas Department of Agriculture is committed to working with our federal and local partners to ensure that Texas schoolchildren get the meals they need this fall," said Miller. "We're also working to give school districts the freedom to choose what works best for their community and their budget, while protecting the integrity of the school meal program for the future. Someday this pandemic will be over and we want to make sure our schools -- and our meal programs -- can get back to normal."

For more information on school nutrition programs in Texas, please visit SquareMeals.org.

This institution is an equal opportunity provider.

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