From left, Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, and Rep. Kim Schrier, D-Washington, walk to a closed Democratic Caucus meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington in this Jan. 4, 2019, 2020, file photo. Credit: Carolyn Kaster / AP

The federal government must renew waivers for programs that increase access to school meals amid the coronavirus pandemic, Maine’s Democratic representative said.

Rep. Chellie Pingree joined more than 100 members of Congress in a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue that called for the department to extend flexibility in school food programs through the coming school year. Pingree said “school meals programs are an essential lifeline” for students in Maine and the pandemic has worsened food insecurity for children.

The letter specifically calls for the USDA to renew waivers that enable the implementation of the Summer Food Service Program and the Seamless Summer Option. They also want the department to waive area eligibility requirements for the entire coming school year.

The Congress members said some schools won’t be able to keep providing meals to students next year without the added flexibility.