Release | April 21, 2021

Mission: Readiness Commends USDA Extension of Pandemic Program Adaptations in Support of Healthy, Nutritious Meals

Extension will provide flexibility as schools continue to reopen

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Mission: Readiness commends the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) decision this week to extend program adaptations that will ensure children have access to healthy school meals as social distancing requirements continue to impact school reopenings during the 2021-2022 school year.

Mission: Readiness members have long seen school meals as critical in the fight against obesity, which disqualifies 1 in 3 Americans from the opportunity of military service. Under the extended rules, schools and child care centers across the country may choose to serve meals through the summer via the National School Lunch Program Seamless Summer Option (SSO), and provide additional resources in serving and preparing meals for delivery and pick up as schools begin a return to normal operations in the fall. SSO maintains the nutrition rules of the standard school meal programs, including an emphasis on fresh fruits and vegetables.

“Combating childhood food insecurity and malnutrition is not only critically important to the future health of our country, but an urgent matter of military readiness and national security,” said Mission: Readiness member and retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Casey Coane. “Extending pandemic program adaptations for school meals is an important step toward ensuring that more young people have access to the nutrition they need to grow up healthy and prepared for success.”

The SSO gives schools the financial flexibility to tailor their meal service design to local needs. Moreover, the extended program adaptations will permit schools and child care institutions to continue providing breakfasts, lunches, and after school snacks in non-group settings at flexible meal times. These critical steps will help preserve many children’s best—or only—source of nutrition, an important protection against food insecurity and malnutrition, including malnutrition manifesting as obesity. These nutritional issues compromise the short- and long-term health of young people, often depriving them of the ability to pursue life and career goals, including military service if they so choose.

Mission: Readiness members believe it is imperative that Congress and the USDA continue to establish lasting innovations within childhood nutrition programs to ensure that young people have access to fresh and nutritious foods during the summer and school year after the pandemic. These actions will help to preserve and improve the health of America’s children and strengthen our national security.


Rear Admiral Casey W. Coane served as a U.S. Navy pilot for thirty-four years, concluding his service as Deputy Commander Naval Network Warfare Command/Naval Space Command. Mission: Readiness is the nonpartisan organization of nearly 800 retired admirals and generals focused on mitigating the major barriers to enlistment, including America’s child obesity crisis. Since 2009, Mission: Readiness has championed evidence-based, bipartisan state and federal public policy solutions that are proven to prepare our youth for successful lives and to be able to serve their nation in any way they choose.


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