Participation in summer meal programs dropped slightly in 2021 compared to 2020, but was still higher than the participation rate in 2019, according to a new report by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC).
Just under 5.6 million children took part in summer nutrition programs on an average weekday in July 2021. This was an increase of 2.8 million children from July 2019, but a decrease of almost 600,000 children from July 2020.
Summer breakfast participation was also higher than in 2019. Just over 5 million children received a summer breakfast on an average weekday in July 2021, representing a 229% increase from two years prior.
The report also ranked states’ summer meal participation by comparing the average lunch participation in July to the average free or reduced-price lunch participation during the school year.
The District of Columbia had the highest participation, serving an average of 106.2 children in the summer for every 100 who qualify for free or reduced-price meals during the year. Nebraska had the lowest, serving only 9.2 children in the summer for every 100 who qualify for free or reduced-price meals.
FRAC has a goal of reaching 40 children with a summer lunch for every 100 children who received free or reduced-price lunch during the year. Nine states and the District of Columbia met that goal in 2021.