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Food Banks, School Districts Prepare for Child Nutrition Waivers Expiration


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By Carmela Karcher

NBC Palm Springs Reporter

“We always get very concerned about the effects that it can have on the community with regards to food insecurity,” President and CEO of FIND Food Bank, Debbie Espinosa shared.

FIND Food Bank serves up to 150,000 people on average each month in the Coachella Valley desert region.

But by June 30, they expect that number to go up.

In less than two weeks, congressional Child Nutrition Waivers, which provide free meals to students, is scheduled to end.

“We have over 86% of our children on free and reduced lunch qualification,” Espinosa continued. “When they expire, you can imagine there’s going to be a lot of families wondering what we can do during the summertime in order to make sure that our kids have the ability to access food.”

These waivers helped ease the application process and allowed every student access to a free breakfast and lunch.

The waivers also allowed schools to distribute grab-and-go meals during remote learning.

But, FIND Food Bank is prepared for the influx of people coming for help.

“Now that we are in the recovery phase we were able to relaunch our child’s summer hunger mobile pantries where they have very kid specific foods that are distributed to our families. We have those at over 47 sites in the valley,” Espinosa said.

Coachella Valley school districts are doing their part as well.

“What my doctor is going through at this very moment is recertifying us for this Community Eligibility Provision,” Marketing and Wellness Coordinator for Palm Springs Unified School District, Jezebelle Cancino, explained. “Her recertification of this will allow us to continue for all of our students to eat for free.”

But there are waivers they can’t recertify for, meaning students who get a free meal will have to come to campus and stay to eat rather than picking up a week supply at a time.

This makes it challenging for families who can’t get to campus.

“It’s heart wrenching and we just hope that we will do anything at all costs to give our students food because like we said, almost all of our demographic is free and reduced,” Cancino continued.

“We want to make sure that we continue to stay together to fight the fight, so that we can end hunger together,” Espinosa shared.

FIND Food Bank has 150 distribution centers.

For those locations, click here.