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.
Nearly three-fourths of meals served in school lunch programs — 22 million on an average school day — are eaten by poor children. But when the school year ends, only about one in seven of those children gets a meal through the USDA’s summer nutrition programs.
Some 3 million school-age children participated in USDA's summer nutrition program in 2016, down 5 percent from the previous year and the first decline after four years of significant growth, said the antihunger Food Research and Action Center. The program, which provides a daily meal, reaches a much smaller group of low-income children than the school lunch program, about one in seven.
Fewer than one of six eligible children takes part in the summer food program, a participation rate that plateaued in 2015 after three years of steady growth, says the Food Research and Action Center in a report released today. The anti-hunger group said Congress should expand the program as part of the pending update of child-nutrition programs costing $23 billion a year, headlined by school lunch.