Feds authorize feeding Ga. children whose schools have closed

February 28, 2020 - Atlanta - Governor Brian Kemp addressed the newly formed Governor’s Coronavirus Task Force. State School Superintendent Richard Woods is seated second from left. Bob Andres / robert.andres@ajc.com

Students in Georgia who rely on meals at school will be able to eat during the pandemic-related shutdown due to special waivers from the federal government.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the free-and-reduced meal program, authorized two waivers that will allow Georgia to feed students at schools with extended closures designed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, a disease that tends to produce mild symptoms in children but has killed older people and those with pre-existing health conditions.

School districts started announcing campus closures Thursday with plans to continue schooling online. They were prompted by Gov. Brian Kemp, who issued a "call to action" to shut down if local officials deemed it necessary to contain the spread of the coronavirus in their communities.

As of 2:40 p.m. Friday, 86 of the state's 180 school districts had announced closures affecting 1,463 schools, with durations varying from days to weeks to indefinite.

The Georgia Department of Education said the waivers, approved late Thursday night, could result in meal service as soon as Monday.

>>RELATED: Georgia schools and colleges close classrooms for coronavirus

“We know food insecurity for students who rely on school meals is a major concern during school closures,” State School Superintendent Richard Woods said in a written statement issued by a spokeswoman Friday afternoon. “We are going to make sure there are options available for students as long as they’re needed, and state and district school nutrition staff are working round-the-clock to get this up and running for Georgia’s kids.”

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Meal distribution will occur at state-approved sites. The state education agency is processing school district applications and should have information about the locations and distribution details early next week, spokeswoman Meghan Frick said.

The state education agency urged the public to contact their school district for more information, as well. For instance, Atlanta Public Schools has announced it will serve food at five sites.

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