Results of a survey released by the School Nutrition Association (SNA) reveal that many school nutrition professionals are concerned about the financial impact COVID-19 is having on their nutrition programs.
Over two-thirds (68%) of responding school meal program directors anticipate a financial loss for their programs this school year, while 23% say they are uncertain about financial losses.
The 68% of respondents who expected a loss were then asked to share their estimated losses for this school year. The median estimated loss per district was $200,000. For school districts with more than 25,000 students, however, the median estimated loss increased to $2.35 million.
Almost all of the survey respondents are serving lunch (99%) and breakfast (94%) to students during the pandemic. Drive-through pickup sites are the most popular way to distribute the meals, with 81% of school districts using this method. Other methods include allowing students and families to walk up to the feeding sites (58%), delivering meals directly to students’ homes (42%), utilizing bus routes for distribution (32%) and partnering with local food banks and organizations to provide meals or food assistance (13.5%).
Serving meals during this time means many operators are facing added expenses such as purchasing grab-and-go carts, packaging supplies and PPE.
The School Nutrition Foundation and The Urban School Food Alliance have both stepped in to help raise money for districts struggling financially. The SNA is also advocating for the passage of The Heroes Act, which currently includes $3 billion in emergency funding for school foodservice programs.
“School meal programs nationwide are experiencing crippling financial losses that could impede efforts to serve students next year,” said SNA President Gay Anderson in a statement. “With a growing number of families dependent on school meals, Congress must act to ensure school meal programs are equipped to nourish students this fall.”