School Nutrition and Meals Programs During K-12 School Reopening

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Introduction

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and corresponding economic decline, the number of Americans experiencing food insecurity has skyrocketed in the United States. According to surveys administered by the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution in Spring 2020, approximately one in five parents living with children have experienced food insecurity due to the pandemic, and rates of food insecurity are even higher among Black and Hispanic households. As with many social services, schools are critical sites in our nation’s child nutrition infrastructure by offering breakfasts and lunches to children and distributing millions of subsidized meals to low-income students every day. With the closure of schools in Spring 2020, however, many children and families lost access to these meals, with one recent piece of research suggesting that only 61 percent of families whose children usually receive free or reduced-price school meals continued to receive meals during the closures.

In the face of this national challenge, it is critical for education leaders at the state and local levels to consider how school meals can be effectively distributed to children and families when schools reopen in the fall, regardless of whether the mode of instruction is in-person or online. To support governors and state education leaders, this memo offers a synthesis of key school nutrition guidance and considerations across states’ school reopening plans and includes links to relevant national resources on this topic.  



All NGA coronavirus memos can be found here, or visit Coronavirus: What You Need To Know for current information on the status of COVID-19 In The United States, a list of actions states/territories have taken to address both the public health and economic impacts, and policy resources.