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USDA data reveals a 30% drop in school meals served during pandemic

School nutrition programs also suffered financial losses in the first 9 months of COVID-19.
School nutrition professional serving food
Photograph: Shutterstock

The USDA has released data showing that school meal programs served 30% fewer meals to students and suffered financial losses for the first 9 months of the pandemic. 

An analysis of the data by the School Nutrition Association (SNA) further revealed that between March and November 2020, schools served 1.7 billion fewer meals than in the same time period the previous year. The SNA says this equates to a $2.1 billion loss in federal revenue for school meal programs.  

In its 2021 Position Paper, the SNA urged Congress to provide more funding for school nutrition programs and make universal free meals for students permanent. 

“The pandemic and school closures have sent school meal programs into a financial tailspin despite extraordinary efforts of school nutrition professionals to continue nourishing students who aren't able to visit cafeterias each day,” SNA President Reggie Ross said in a statement. “Between the drop in revenue from decreased participation and higher pandemic meal service costs, school meal programs face an uncertain future. Congress must provide additional emergency relief funds to ensure these critical programs remain financially sustainable to serve students in the future.” 

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