New Report Shows Impact of School Nutrition Waivers, Calls for Extension

Student participation in school breakfast and lunch dropped dramatically across the country during the COVID-19 pandemic, and child hunger would have spiked even more dramatically without waivers that allowed schools and community organizations to creatively adapt to keep feeding programs going, according to a new report by the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC).

LAMPa advocates were among those urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture to approve the changes needed to get nutrition to students in the face of school closures, food supply issues and social distancing requirements. “Lutheran hunger advocates have been engaged in improving school nutrition programs in Pennsylvania for years, and were quick to recognize and act on the need for flexibility in programs for delivering meals,” said LAMPa Director Tracey DePasquale.

Faced with supply chain issues and staffing shortages, school nutrition programs are still recovering, according to FRAC, a partner of ELCA World Hunger. Advocates are urging Congress to extend the waivers. Without congressional action, the waivers are set to expire on June 30.

FRAC’s The Reach of Breakfast and Lunch: A Look at Pandemic and Pre-Pandemic Participation reveals nearly 14 million children received breakfast and 19.8 million children received lunch on an average school day during the 2020–2021 school year, a decrease of 692,000 children and 8.8 million children, respectively, compared to breakfast and lunch participation rates in the 2018–2019 school year — the last full school year prior to the pandemic.

The report provides breakfast and lunch data for every state and the District of Columbia. The 2018-2019 school year data includes participation in the School Breakfast and National School Lunch Programs. The data for the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years also include participation in the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and the Seamless Summer Option (SSO) to account for the meals provided using the child nutrition waivers that have been made available during the pandemic.

FRAC and nearly 2,000 national, state, and local organizations from every state across the country, and the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, are urging Congress to swiftly extend USDA authority to issue nationwide waivers for the Child Nutrition Programs beyond this school year. Find your member of Congress here.

Read the full report here.

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