COVID-related school closures across the United States in spring 2020 disrupted the school meal programs that provide critical access to healthy food for millions of children — including children in elementary and middle school and adolescents in high school — from households with low incomes, leading to increased food insecurity. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) responded with innovative policies that allowed states and school districts to implement the Grab-and-Go School Meals (GGSM) and Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) programs. Together, these programs ensured children’s access to billions of meals and mitigated the effects of school closures on food insecurity. P-EBT reached more children and provided meals at lower cost. GGSM offered prepared meals and reached people not eligible for P-EBT. Both programs should be continued to assure food access when schools are closed during planned breaks and future crises.
Published: August 2022
Publisher: Healthy Eating Research
Authors: Krieger J, Kenney E, Pinero-Walkinshaw L
Costs, Reach, and Benefits of COVID-19 Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer and Grab-and-Go School Meals for Ensuring Youths’ Access to Food During School ClosuresSchool meals are associated with improved nutrition and health for millions of US children, but school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted children’s access to school meals. Two policy approaches, the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program, which provided the cash value of missed meals directly to families on debit-like cards to use for More