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A student chaperoned by an adult picks up a meal to go. Photo: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

The Department of Agriculture on Tuesday extended school meal programs through the end of next school year, saying the program is expected to end in the summer of 2022.

Why it matters: Many public schools that closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic continued to provide lunches to low-income students who would otherwise go hungry. The move comes as part of the Biden administration's effort to reopen schools as the virus persists.

  • The USDA also extended critical support to families who struggle with food insecurity — particularly amid the financial crunch of the pandemic.

What they're saying: “States and districts wanted waivers extended to plan for safe reopening in the fall," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement. "USDA answered the call to help America’s schools and childcare institutions serve high quality meals while being responsive to their local needs as children safely return to their regular routines."

  • "[S]chools and both child and adult care institutions can continue providing breakfasts, lunches, and after school snacks in non-group settings at flexible meal times," the statement read.
  • The action also increases the reimbursement rate to school meal operators, Vilsack said.

The big picture: Federal officials estimate up to 12 million children are living in households where they may not always have enough to eat.

  • A recent study from Tufts University found food consumed at schools provided the best diet quality of major U.S. food sources among children and adults.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect that school meal programs, including breakfast, lunch and after school snacks, have been extended.

Go deeper

Updated 57 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Prosecutor to seek hate crime charges, death penalty in Atlanta shootings

In Hopkinton, Mass., the Rally & Run To Stop Asian Hate is held to show solidarity in the wake of deadly Atlanta shootings and to mourn the loss of eight lives including six Asian women. Photo: Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Prosecutors unveiled murder charges against the white man accused of shooting and killing eight people, six of whom were Asian women, at Atlanta-area spas, AP reports.

Driving the news: A prosecutor filed notice that she plans to seek hate crime charges and the death penalty in the case. Two separate grand juries have now indicted the suspect on murder charges.

America's pandemic coin crunch returns

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

An early pandemic problem that plagued businesses is back: not enough change to go around.

Why it matters: The pandemic broke America's coin flow. It has repercussions for millions that rely on it for daily transactions.