FRAC says free school breakfast is crucial to addressing hunger, academic performance

Nearly a year into the pandemic, school closures have taken a harsh toll on American kids. Virtual classes have left many behind academically, and losing access to school meals has increased child hunger across the country, as replacement programs have failed to meet rising need. As children return to the classroom, school breakfasts will be critical in both curbing hunger and improving academic outcomes, according to the Food Research & Action Center’s (FRAC) annual Breakfast Scorecard, which was released today.

Few states ready for Biden expansion of P-EBT

Two days after taking office, President Biden directed the USDA to boost benefits by 15 percent in the P-EBT program for school-age children in low-income families, and to include children under the age of 6 in P-EBT. The expansion would aid millions of children, but only eight states are approved for P-EBT for this school year, which started months ago.

Pandemic leads to highest SNAP enrollment in three years

Food stamp enrollment has surged by 6 million people since the pandemic hit the United States, said the USDA on Wednesday in its first update of SNAP participation in months. Some 42.9 million people received food stamps at latest count, the highest number since October 2017.

With hunger at crisis levels, states still haven’t issued new P-EBT benefits

As food insecurity soars among families with children and a slate of federal benefits is set to expire later this month, a critical anti-hunger tool has yet to be implemented, leaving at least 2.7 million kids without assistance. (No paywall)

Study: Participation in afterschool nutrition programs was rising before pandemic

Even before the pandemic, participation in Afterschool Nutrition Programs was on the rise, according to a report released today from the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC). The findings highlight the need to ensure meal access when kids aren’t in school, particularly as the pandemic drags on.(No paywall)

School meal programs have lost more than $483 million so far during the pandemic

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)

Advocates push to make WIC waivers permanent

Last week, the USDA extended a series of flexibilities in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children for the duration of the Covid-19 public health emergency. The waivers for the program, commonly known as WIC, have allowed participants to apply for benefits remotely rather than in person, and expanded both pickup options and the scope of eligible products. (No paywall)

Q&A: A rural Montana school district scrambles keep kids fed during pandemic

Like school nutrition staff across the country, Marsha Wartick, food service director for the Ronan School District in tiny Ronan, Montana, spent the last six months feeding hungry kids and their families under a USDA emergency meals program. Now, as kids head back to school, Wartick is scrambling to react to mixed signals from the administration and hoping the emergency program is allowed to continue through the entire school year. (No paywall)

USDA creates a food gap in P-EBT, say House Democrats

Congress created the P-EBT program early this year to help low-income parents buy food for their school-age children during coronavirus closures. Two high-ranking House Democrats said on Thursday the USDA would cut off benefits to students at schools that begin classes later than usual because of the pandemic.