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How School Meals Help Families Impacted by the Pandemic

School meals are a lifeline to tens of millions of families across the country. Learn about new research showing why healthy meals are so important—and opportunities to help schools ensure more families have access to the healthy foods they need.

Jamie Bussel, senior program officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, discusses new findings about the importance of school meals with Dr. Mary Story, program director of Healthy Eating Research.

On a typical day before the pandemic, school food service workers across America did far more than serve lunch to the nearly 30 million children participating in the National School Lunch Program, and the nearly 15 million participating in the School Breakfast Program. Many also served afterschool snacks and even dinners for students to take home to their families. These school meals are a lifeline for tens of millions of kids and families who are furthest from economic opportunity.

All of this changed in March 2020 when schools across the country began closing in droves in response to COVID-19. Students in Houston were getting ready for Spring Break just as lockdowns began. This timing meant that instead of being stocked to serve students for the week, refrigerators across the Houston Independent School District (HISD) were empty.

Read the full post on the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Culture of Health Blog.

Community Story

School Meals Are a Lifeline for America’s Kids and Families

For Santana Lee, preparing meals for her adopted children became a serious challenge when COVID-19 forced schools to close. Thankfully, Milwaukee Public School District in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where Lee’s family lives, developed “Stop, Grab & Go” locations where families can pick up school meals. Breakfast and lunch are free for all students and children under the age of 18.

Read The Story

Priority Policy

School Meals and Snacks

Many children consume up to half their daily calories at school. Nationwide more than 29 million children participate in the National School Lunch Program and nearly 15 million participate in the School Breakfast Program. 

See The Policy