July 24, 2020 – The number of federally-subsidized lunches served by schools nationwide plummeted after the start of the pandemic because alternative food distribution programs set up by school districts after they closed their buildings generally failed to meet the massive local child nutrition needs, according to new federal data analyzed by Hunger Free America.

From February to April of 2020, as most schools closed their doors in response to Covid-19, the number of federally-subsidized lunches served dropped from 489.1 million to 365.7 million, a 25 percent drop.

At the same time, child hunger soared across America, with 37 percent of parents nationwide cutting the size of meals or skipping meals for their children because they did not have enough money for food.

In response, Joel Berg, CEO of Hunger Free America said: “After schools nationwide were forced to close their doors this spring, most went through heroic efforts to create alternative ways for kids to get school lunches, often by allowing students to pick up meals at their schools to take home to eat, and, in some cases, even delivering meals to the homes of students. This new data shows that, as well-meaning as such efforts are, they are now failing in fundamental ways to meet the vast needs of hungry children. School districts generally aren’t to blame for this gap; the fact is that there is no easy, affordable way to feed kids when schools are no longer open and have students as a ‘captive audience.’ Given that many schools will likely stay physically closed this fall, this child hunger crisis – left unaddressed – will further worsen. That’s why, to address this child hunger epidemic, we need the U.S. Senate to do what the U.S. House has already done: extend the Pandemic-EBT program that gives extra food money to low-income parents of children in closed schools and to increase the purchasing power of SNAP, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program. The U.S. Senate majority should stop delaying food to hungry American kids.”

HUNGER FREE AMERICA (formerly known as the New York City Coalition Against Hunger) is a nonpartisan, national nonprofit group working to enact the policies and programs needed to end domestic hunger and ensure that all Americans have sufficient access to nutritious food. www.hungerfree.org