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Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, which represents 1.7 million school employees, told the AP she and the signatories are hoping for immediate help and a long-term, structural rethinking of food in America.

"In a terrible pandemic with terrible unemployment, with terrible food insecurity, why are we not doing more?" she asked.

"It really is re-imagining our public assets, our public institutions, to be a real safety net for people."

Another signatory, chef José Andrés, founder of World Central Kitchen, which has distributed 35 million meals since the pandemic began, said: "We need to go bold. If we don't go bold now, when?"

The pandemic has killed more than 150,000 people in the United States, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University. It has closed schools and businesses and devastated the economy, costing tens of millions of people their jobs. Donald Trump has pushed for schools to reopen — even threatening to withhold federal funds from districts that remain closed — despite health officials' concerns about spreading the deadly virus.

During the pandemic, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has issued a series of waivers to make it easier for schools and community organizations to serve free meals through federal nutrition programs. These waivers have allowed for a variety of innovative strategies, such as drive-through pick-up of children's meals by adults, lifting area eligibility rules to reach more families and distributing multiple days' worth of meals at once.

The group is pushing the Republican-led Senate and Trump to adopt the HEROES Act, which extends unemployment benefits to some workers and expands the rules under which school districts can distribute food during emergencies. The measure has already been passed by the Democratic-led House.

The coalition also is seeking a 15% increase in food stamp assistance, also known as SNAP, and an extension of the program that allows children who are eligible for free or reduced-price meals at school to get extra food benefits.

The letter was signed by a broad coalition of advocates and social groups, including the Hispanic Federation, the National Immigration Law Center, the Emerson Collective, Share Our Strength, and Hunger Free America.

The coalition's letter points out that six in 10 students in California and Kentucky are eligible for federally subsidized meals, while in New York the number is just under half of all students. Pelosi and McCarthy represent California, McConnell represents Kentucky and Schumer is from New York.

Andrés told the AP he hopes $900 million can be set aside for school meals and waivers can be extended for poor families. But he also argued that money needs to be invested long term in farmers to bring them into the equation.

"I don't think we want to see images of an America with long lines of cars waiting for their weekly box of vegetables and fruits. This shouldn't be happening," he said. "Let's try a 360-degree, three-dimensional approach."

The coalition said it believes that schools — with often the biggest kitchen in the neighborhood — should be transformed into community kitchens during moments of crisis.

"There's so much food insecurity in the country right now, why can't we more robustly use school kitchens in conjunction with restaurants and other places?" Weingarten asked.

Andrés said school meals shouldn't be political. "There are hungry children in red and blue states," he said. But he specifically called out McConnell for not tackling food issues in the Senate or his own state. "I'm expecting better from a leader like him," Andrés said.

In response, a representative for McConnell said Thursday the senator was proud to have helped shepherd $25 billion in food assistance into law earlier this year as part of the CARES Act. The representative also pointed to comments McConnell made to PBS on Wednesday in which he said making sure children are well-fed is "extremely important."

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Tags: children coronavirus covid 19 health jose andres mitch mcconnell naacp poverty schools teachers

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Prince William and Kate Middleton split chores totally equally – and he cooks family meals as much as she does

PRINCE William and Kate Middleton’s “modern” relationship sees them splitting chores and sharing the school run according to a new book.

Finding Freedom, which was released on Tuesday, is the unofficial biography of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, but the authors shared an insight into the Cambridges lives too.

2The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have a "modern" relationship and split chores equallyCredit: Getty Images - Getty

Writing in the book Carolyn Durand and Omid Scobie explain that William and Kate have an “equal partnership.”

They say William is “involved in every aspect of raising his three children - including school drop-off and pickup, as well as homework.

“He and Kate, who had an equal partnership when it came to the house, were moden parents. William prepared meals as much as Kate did."

The book also details how the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are eager to instill a “normal” homelife for their three childre, George, Charlotte and Louis.

2Royal authors say that Prince William is involved in "every aspect of raising his three children"Credit: Matt Porteous

The authors write: “When William and Kate took over the apartment at 1A, they wanted the kitchen to be at the heart of the home.

“It wasn't just practical; it was also symbolic. Like his mother had wanted for him, William desired relatively normal childhoods for his kids, even if his eldest son was destined to be King."

Meghan and Harry’s unofficial biography was co-written by Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand.

Meghan, 39, and Harry, 35, have insisted they had nothing to do with the book, from which The Times published extracts two weeks ago.

Scobie, who has close ties to Meghan, also said he had not spoken to them directly.

However, the book does contain intimate information on the early stages of their romance.

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In other royal news, we told you how Meghan "fell hard" for Prince Harry when she saw him around friends kids.

And we shared how Prince Harry ‘cooked three course dinner’ for Meghan Markle to celebrate her 39th birthday while Doria babysat Archie.

Meanwhile, Meghan and Adele ‘enjoy pilates sessions together as the new neighbours hit it off’.

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