New Data Shows How Participation in Nutrition Programs Has Changed During the Pandemic

The USDA recently released child nutrition and program participation data that provides key insights into how food access has changed for children since the start of the pandemic. Here are three things you should know about what’s happening at the national level:

  • Meals served during the school year decreased. Free and reduced-price meal service decreased by 30% after COVID hit – that means kids received 196 million fewer meals per month during the first few months of the pandemic.
  • Meals served during the summer increasedFree and reduced-price meals increased 160% in July 2020 compared to July 2019 – that means kids received 148 million more meals.
  • More Americans are participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The number of people receiving SNAP benefits has increased 13% since COVID hit, an increase of 4.9 million people participating in the program. SNAP is a lifeline for families, and one of the safest, most effective ways to make sure kids get the food they need. 

COVID-19 has caused a health and economic crisis, causing millions of families to face poverty and hunger. During this crisis and in its aftermath, programs like School Meals, SNAP and Pandemic-EBT are working together to ensure children and their families get the nutrition they need. 

Numbers were calculated by Share Our Strength based on custom reports and data provided directly from USDA. The child nutrition data and information available to the general public on the USDA website may differ due to the specific metrics and data included in our analysis. Please contact for more information about our methodology.