1. Free and reduced meal participation decreased overall
Over 11.8 million children received a free or reduced-price lunch during an average day in April 2020, falling 41.2 percent from April 2019. Breakfast also saw lower rates of participation. Almost 1.3 million children received a free or reduced-price breakfast on an average day in April 2020, a 3.4 percent decrease compared to April 2019.
2. Some states saw an increase
While free and reduced-price lunch participation decreased nationally, it went up in some individual states. Delaware, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont and Wyoming all saw greater numbers of of free and reduced-price lunches served in April 2020 than in April 2019.
Additionally, 31 states saw an increase in the number of free and reduced-price breakfasts served in April 2020. FRAC notes that this was probably due to the fact that many states had low breakfast participation numbers before COVID-19. Nationwide waivers that permitted schools to distribute lunch and breakfast at the same time also helped drive breakfast participation.
3. School supper and after-school snacks were also hit hard
School supper participation has also slipped during the pandemic. Just under 660,000 students received supper during an average day in April 2020, representing a 47.6 percent decrease from that month the year prior.
After-school snack participation has also fallen. Over 444,000 children received a snack on an average day in April 2020, representing a 69.2 percent decrease year over year.
4. Universal free meals and additional funding can help drive participation
The report included actionable steps the country can take to increase overall school meal participation during COVID-19, such as increasing relief funding to schools, investing in afterschool and summer programming, and having the government make universal free meals for students permanent.