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School Meals and Snacks

PRIORITY POLICY

School Meals & Snacks

For decades, school meals have been helping to prevent hunger and provide nutrients that kids need to learn and thrive. These meals are essential to tens of millions of children and families, especially those living furthest from economic opportunity.

To address hunger during the pandemic, Congress passed relief measures in 2020 that enabled USDA to offer meals to all students free of charge. These measures, which help alleviate food insecurity and resource challenges for families and schools, expire on June 30, 2022.

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Recommendations

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation urges these actions to prioritize equity and support children’s health.

Support all federal and state efforts to extend universal school meals through at least the 2022-2023 school year, if not permanently, with commensurate federal funding to ensure schools are able to serve meals that align with the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Support federal and state efforts to strengthen school meal nutrition standards, and provide schools with the resources needed to meet those standards, to ensure children receive healthy food each day.

Fast Facts

47%

By 2018, the prevalence of obesity among children in families with low incomes was 47% lower than expected because of healthier school nutrition standards.

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41%

The nutritional quality of school lunches has increased by 41% since the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act was implemented in 2012.

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76.9%

In 2019-2020, 76.9% of school meals served were free or reduced price.

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