School meal programs have taken a massive financial hit during the coronavirus crisis, according to a new survey from the School Nutrition Association. The survey, which includes responses from school nutrition directors in 1,614 school districts across the country, points to the crippling costs of adapting to pandemic-related constraints, and significant losses due to a drop in participation in the school-lunch program.(No paywall)
The Pandemic EBT program, created by Congress to help low-income families buy food for their children during school closures, "is hitting its target," said researchers at the Brookings Institution. "We find that Pandemic EBT reduces food hardship faced by children by 30 percent in the week following its disbursement."
Participation in the school lunch program nosedived 28 percent during the first months of the pandemic despite breakneck efforts across the nation to provide an alternative to meals in the cafeteria, said USDA data. An anti-hunger group said extension of the so-called P-EBT program and an increase in SNAP benefits were needed to treat "this child hunger crisis."
Public schools served tens of millions of emergency meals in April, mostly often in drive-through lanes, to low-income children after coronavirus closures ended cafeteria service, said a survey released on Monday. Nonetheless, roughly half of the 1,894 districts taking part in the School Nutrition Association survey reported a drop-off of at least 50 percent in meals served. (No paywall)
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced the second public-private initiative to provide replacement meals for low-income children who lost access to free or reduced-price meals due to school closures. The new project would feed children "vulnerable to hunger" in Ohio and follows the creation of an effort in Texas to offer shelf-stable meals to students in a limited number of rural schools closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.(No paywall)
The Department of Agriculture announced Tuesday that it will be delivering boxes of food to children affected by school closures due to the novel coronavirus in rural America. In partnership with the Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty, McLane Global, and PepsiCo, the USDA says it will eventually deliver 1 million meals per week.(No paywall)
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue told school food directors on Monday the government will help them continue feeding children if schools are closed due to Covid-19. “If schools are closed, we are going to do our very best to see you all have the tools you need to keep the kids fed,” he said at a School Nutrition Association conference.
The USDA approved requests from California and Washington State to provide free meals to low-income students when schools are closed due to the coronavirus outbreak. The waivers, good through June 30, were the first by USDA to help schools deal with the disease in part by allowing them to stop serving meals in group settings, such as a cafeteria.
With nearly one in five American youths suffering obesity, schools should provide optimal nutrition in the meals served daily to 29.5 million students a day, said former agriculture secretaries Ann Veneman and Dan Glickman. The co-chairs of a prevention initiative at the Bipartisan Policy Center, Veneman and Glickman said the Trump administration proposals announced last week "would reduce the nutritional quality of foods served to children in both school breakfast and lunch programs."
On his sixth day on the job in 2017, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue made chocolate milk safe for schools again, along with white flour and salt, in the name of regulatory flexibility. Those revisions to the school food program became final in late 2018. The USDA will propose a new round of "common-sense flexibility" for school meals this week, says Perdue. Skeptics said it will mean more pizza, burgers and fries and fewer servings of fruits and vegetables.