Published: August 2022

Publisher: Healthy Eating Research

Authors: Krieger J, Kenney E, Pinero-Walkinshaw L

See more related research


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.

Related Research

February 2023

Rapid Health Impact Assessment on Changes to School Nutrition Standards to Align with 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans

The national school breakfast and lunch programs administered by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) are cornerstone federal nutrition assistance programs. School meals are one of the healthiest sources of foods for school-age children, which is significant as some children receive up to half of their daily calories at school. Policy opportunities in 2023 More

November 2022

Promising Strategies to Increase Student Participation in School Meals

School meal programs play a critical role in feeding children. Meals served in school are generally of better nutritional quality than those that students bring from home and have been linked to improved academic performance and household food security. The aim of this research brief is to highlight and summarize rigorous evidence from a new More

August 2022

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 Closures

School 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