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USDA’s National School Lunch Program served about 224 billion meals from 1971 through 2021

Thursday, October 6, 2022

The USDA’s National School Lunch Program (NSLP) was permanently authorized as a Child Nutrition Program in 1946. In fiscal year (FY) 2019, the program served about 29.6 million children each school day across 97,127 schools and residential childcare institutions. Any student in a participating school can get an NSLP lunch. Depending on their household’s income, students may be eligible for either a free, reduced-price, or full-price lunch. Students can receive a free lunch if their household’s income is at or below 130 percent of the Federal poverty line (FPL), a reduced-price lunch if their household’s income is between 130 and 185 percent of the FPL, and a full-price lunch if their household’s income is above 185 percent of the FPL. From 1971 through FY 2021, the program has served about 224.0 billion lunches. Of these meals, 126.4 billion were served for free or at a reduced price. The onset of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in March 2020 interrupted the operations of many schools, disrupting the provision of lunches through the NSLP in FY 2020 and FY 2021. As a result, about 3.2 billion lunches were served through the program in FY 2020 and 2.2 billion in FY 2021, fewer than the 4.9 billion served in FY 2019. This drop reflects the use of a USDA pandemic waiver allowing schools to serve meals through the Summer Food Service Program instead of the NSLP and the creation of the temporary Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program, which reimbursed eligible families for the value of school meals missed because of pandemic-related disruptions to in-person school attendance. A higher share of the meals served in FY 2020 and FY 2021 were served free or at a reduced-price, attributable in large part to a USDA pandemic waiver allowing for meals to be provided free of charge to all students. This chart appears on the USDA, Economic Research Service’s National School Lunch Program page on the Child Nutrition Programs topic page.

School districts get locally produced foods from a variety of sources

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

USDA encourages schools to serve locally grown and raised foods, including fresh produce and meat. During the 2018–19 school year, approximately two-thirds of U.S. school districts participated in farm to school activities, according to USDA Food and Nutrition Service’s 2019 Farm to School Census. Of the participating school districts, 78 percent reported purchasing some quantity of local food during the school year. About 43 percent of school districts reported purchasing local foods from produce distributors. USDA’s Department of Defense (DoD) Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (USDA DoD Fresh) was an equally common procurement source for school districts. USDA DoD Fresh allows districts to use USDA funds to obtain fresh fruits and vegetables through the DoD and provides information to districts on the food sources. USDA Foods, which refers to the commodities donated by USDA to school districts for use in school meals, was the third-most common source with 36 percent of respondents indicating they used the program to source local foods, followed by 26 percent of respondents that sourced from individual food producers. Broadline distributors (distributors offering several types of products), grocery stores, and school or community gardens and farms were each used by about 17 percent of respondents as local food sources. This chart is updated from one that appeared in Trends in U.S. Local and Regional Food Systems released January 29, 2015.

Food insecurity in U.S. households with children reached two-decade low in 2021

Monday, September 12, 2022

USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) monitors the prevalence of food insecurity in U.S. households with children by measuring food insecurity for the household overall, as well as for adults and children separately. The first measure, food insecurity in households with children, indicates that at least one person in the household—whether an adult, a child, or both—was food insecure. The second measure, food insecurity among children, indicates that households were unable at times to provide adequate, nutritious food for their children. Both annual measures improved in 2021. In 2021, 12.5 percent of households with children were food insecure, a significant decrease from 14.8 percent in 2020 and the lowest point in two decades. The decline means that in 2021 nearly 2.5 million fewer children lived in households that had difficulty at times providing enough food for all their members because of a lack of resources. Food insecurity among children in these households declined significantly as well. The prevalence of food insecurity among children in 2021 was 6.2 percent, down from 7.6 percent in 2020. The most severe category of food insecurity, called very low food security among children, affected 0.7 percent of households with children in 2021, not significantly different from the 2020 prevalence rate of 0.8 percent. This chart appears in the ERS report, Household Food Security in the United States in 2021, released September 7, 2022.

U.S. household food insecurity in 2021 unchanged from 2020

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) monitors the food security status of households in the United States through an annual nationwide survey. In 2021, 89.8 percent of U.S. households were food secure throughout the entire year, meaning they had access at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members. The remaining 10.2 percent of households were food insecure at least some time during the year, including 3.8 percent that experienced very low food security. In households reporting very low food security, the food intake of one or more household members was reduced and their eating patterns were disrupted at times during the year because the household lacked money and other resources for obtaining food. The 2021 prevalence of food insecurity, at 10.2 percent, was statistically unchanged from 2020. Very low food security was not significantly different from its 3.9-percent rate in 2020. This chart appears in the ERS report, Household Food Security in the United States in 2021, released September 7, 2022.

Spending on USDA’s two major school nutrition programs dropped from 2019 to 2021 as other programs filled pandemic-related gaps

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

The USDA’s National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP) typically make up the largest share of child nutrition program (CNP) expenditures. In fiscal year (FY) 2019, before the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, spending on the two programs amounted to about $18.7 billion, nearly 80 percent of the $23.6 billion spent on all CNP in that year. As a result of pandemic-related disruptions to school operations beginning in the second half of FY 2020, spending on the two programs declined to $13.9 billion in FY 2020 and $12.4 billion in FY 2021, making up about 43 percent of the $32.5 billion spent on CNP in FY 2020 and about 22 percent of the $56.7 billion spent in FY 2021. These declines were in part due to many schools transitioning to the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and the creation of the temporary Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer program (P-EBT), which increased CNP expenditures. Spending on SFSP increased from nearly $500 million in FY 2019 (about 2 percent of CNP expenditures) to $10.7 billion in FY 2021 (about 19 percent of CNP expenditures). P-EBT spending reached $10.7 billion in FY 2020 (about 33 percent of CNP expenditures) and $28.3 billion in FY 2021 (about 50 percent of CNP expenditures). Although spending on the Child and Adult Care Food Program was relatively stable across the three years, the program’s share of CNP spending declined from about 16 percent in FY 2019 to 7 percent in FY 2021 as overall expenditures increased. This chart is based on data available as of April 2022 that is subject to revision and made available on the USDA, Economic Research Service’s (ERS) Child Nutrition Programs topic page, updated August 2022.

Fruits and vegetables top the list of locally produced foods purchased by U.S. school districts

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Many U.S. school food authorities—the entities that operate school food services in public, private, and charter schools—purchase local foods such as fruits, vegetables, dairy, and proteins for their district’s cafeterias. In addition to buying locally produced foods, many school districts participate in other farm to school activities, such as product-specific promotions, taste tests of local foods, onsite edible gardens, and field trips to farms. Approximately two-thirds of U.S. school districts participated in farm to school activities during the 2018-19 school year, according to USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service 2019 Farm to School Census. Of the school districts that participated, 78 percent reported purchasing any local foods during the school year. Fruits and vegetables topped the list of local foods purchased in 2018-19, at 85 percent and 82 percent of school districts, respectively. Further, 68 percent of school districts reported buying locally produced milk and 29 percent reported buying local grains, including baked goods. Approximately a third of school districts reported purchasing other local dairy products, such as cheese, yogurt, and sour cream (31 percent), and about a quarter purchased locally produced proteins like meat, eggs, seafood, nuts, and seeds (27 percent). This chart is updated from one that appeared in the March 2015 Amber Waves article, “Many U.S. School Districts Serve Local Foods”.

Temporary programs made up 17 percent of Federal food and nutrition assistance spending in FY 2021

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Total spending on USDA’s food and nutrition assistance programs reached $182.5 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2021. The distribution of this spending across programs reflects the Federal response to the ongoing Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which included expansions of existing programs as well as the continued operation of two temporary programs—Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) and the Farmers to Families Food Box Program (which ended in May 2021). Together, these temporary programs accounted for 17.2 percent of nutrition assistance spending in FY 2021. Spending on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) accounted for 62.4 percent of total spending in the same year. A temporary benefit increase, the expansion of emergency allotments, and higher participation contributed to the record-high Federal SNAP spending of $113.8 billion. Combined spending on the four largest child nutrition programs accounted for 15.6 percent of total spending in FY 2021. The Summer Food Service Program, which schools used to provide free meals in FY 2021, including during unanticipated closures, made up the largest share of this spending. The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) accounted for 2.7 percent of total spending. This chart is based on data available as of April 2022 that is subject to revision and a chart in the USDA, Economic Research Service’s Food and Nutrition Assistance Landscape: Fiscal Year 2021 Annual Report, released June 22, 2022.

Federal spending on food assistance reached record high of $182.5 billion in 2021

Thursday, June 23, 2022

USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) released “The Food and Nutrition Assistance Landscape: Fiscal Year 2021 Annual Report” on Wednesday, June 22. The report examines program trends and policy changes in USDA’s largest U.S. food and nutrition assistance programs through fiscal year 2021. An overview of the annual ERS report will be provided in a webinar at 1 p.m. EDT, Thursday, June 23. To join or register, click here.

Spending on USDA’s food and nutrition assistance programs jumped 43 percent in fiscal year (FY) 2021 to an inflation-adjusted record high of $182.5 billion. This increase reflected the heightened need for food assistance during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the subsequent Federal response. In FY 2021, USDA expanded program benefits, approved waivers allowing flexibility in the administration of existing food and nutrition assistance programs, and continued to operate two temporary programs, Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) and the Farmers to Families Food Box Program (Food Box Program). P-EBT and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) experienced the largest increases in spending from FY 2020, 162 percent and 44 percent, respectively. These increases reflect P-EBT’s operation throughout all of FY 2021 (compared with only part of FY 2020) and the issuance of SNAP emergency allotments, which temporarily raised all recipients’ benefits up to or above the maximum benefit for their household size. Combined spending on the four largest child nutrition programs (the National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, Child and Adult Care Food Program, and Summer Food Service Program) increased, as did spending on both the Food Box Program and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). This chart is based on data available as of April 2022 that are subject to revision and a chart appearing in the USDA, Economic Research Service’s Food and Nutrition Assistance Landscape: Fiscal Year 2021 Annual Report, released June 22, 2022.

USDA’s School Breakfast Program served about 59 billion meals from 1975 through 2020

Monday, March 7, 2022

The USDA’s School Breakfast Program (SBP) was permanently authorized as a Child Nutrition Program in 1975. In fiscal year (FY) 2019, the program served about 14.8 million children each school day across 90,833 schools and residential childcare institutions. Any student in a participating school can get an SBP breakfast. Students may be eligible for either a free, reduced-price, or full-price breakfast depending on their household’s income. Students can receive a free breakfast if their household’s income is at or below 130 percent of the Federal poverty line (FPL), a reduced-price breakfast if their household’s income is between 130 and 185 percent of the FPL, and a full-price breakfast if their household’s income is above 185 percent of the FPL. From 1975 through FY 2020, the program has served nearly 59 billion breakfasts. On average, 85 percent of breakfasts were served for free or at a reduced price each year. The onset of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in March 2020 interrupted the operations of many schools, thereby disrupting the provision of breakfasts through the SBP in FY 2020. As a result, about 1.8 billion breakfasts were served through the program in that year, roughly 620 million fewer than the amount served in FY 2019. This drop reflects the use of COVID-19 waivers that allowed schools to serve meals through the Summer Food Service Program. The data for this chart are from the USDA, Economic Research Service’s School Breakfast Program page on the Child Nutrition Programs topic page.

Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer payments raised overall spending on USDA’s child nutrition programs in FY 2020

Friday, December 17, 2021

In March 2020, as the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic forced the closure of schools nationwide, the provision of meals to children through USDA’s National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP) was disrupted. In response, Congress authorized the creation of the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program to reimburse families whose children were eligible for free or reduced-price school meals for the value of the school meals their children missed due to pandemic-related school closures. In the first half of fiscal year (FY) 2020 (October 2019 through March 2020), spending on USDA’s largest child nutrition programs was about the same as in the first half of FY 2019 (October 2018 through March 2019). Those programs are the NSLP, SBP, Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), and the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). With the onset of the pandemic, spending on the NSLP, SBP, and CACFP fell to about $4.7 billion in the second half of FY 2020, a sharp decline compared to the roughly $9.9 billion spent on the programs over the same period in FY 2019. Although this decline was somewhat offset by about $3.9 billion in spending on SFSP in the latter half of FY 2020, overall spending on the four programs declined. However, P-EBT spending in the second half of FY 2020 amounted to about $10.7 billion, bringing total FY 2020 USDA expenditures on nutrition programs targeting children to $32.3 billion, or $8.7 billion more than all FY 2019 expenditures. This chart appears in the Amber Waves feature Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic Transformed the U.S. Federal Food and Nutrition Assistance Landscape, released October 4, 2021.

USDA Seamless Summer Option and Summer Food Service Program meal sites expanded earlier in 2020 than in 2019

Friday, October 29, 2021

Beginning in March 2020, the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic caused school and childcare provider closures, disrupting the distribution of meals through USDA’s largest child nutrition programs: The National School Lunch Program (NSLP), School Breakfast Program (SBP), and Child and Adult Care Food Program. In response, USDA expanded the scope and coverage of the NSLP’s and SBP’s Seamless Summer Option (SSO) and the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). The SSO and SFSP typically provide meals to children and teens in low-income areas during unanticipated school closures between October and April or when schools are not in session, such as during summer break. USDA waived these requirements, allowing qualifying organizations to serve free meals to children and teens in all areas throughout the year. As a result, the number of free meal sites open to all children as reported by States grew rapidly in the early months of the pandemic. At least 28,987 sites were operating in March 2020, and at least 31,347 by May 2020, well above the 6,254 sites reported in May 2019. In June and July of 2020, the number of reported free meal sites open to all children was lower compared to the same months in 2019. Although fewer free meal sites were reported as operating, more children received meals through the SSO and SFSP during June and July of 2020 compared with the same months in the previous year. This chart is based on data presented in the USDA, Economic Research Service’s COVID-19 Working Paper: Filling the Pandemic Meal Gap: Disruptions to Child Nutrition Programs and Expansion of Free Meal Sites in the Early Months of the Pandemic, released October 12, 2021.

USDA's Summer Food Service Program served a record number of free meals despite fewer sites in fiscal year 2020

Friday, October 22, 2021

The USDA Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) typically provides free nutritious meals to children and teens in low-income areas through qualifying organizations during unanticipated school closures from October through April or when schools are not in session, such as during summer break. In response to school and childcare provider closures caused by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, USDA expanded the scope and coverage of the SFSP by allowing qualifying organizations to serve free meals throughout the year and in all areas through the program. As a result, the program set a record in fiscal year 2020 for number of meals served. In July 2020, participation in the program reached a historical high of 4.7 million. However, the increase in participation was not matched by an increase in SFSP sites. The number of SFSP free meal sites, including sites open to all children and sites serving only enrolled children, had steadily increased over much of the last decade, peaking at 50,080 in July 2017 before declining to 47,471 by July 2019 and 37,498 in July 2020. This chart is based on a chart in the USDA, Economic Research Service’s COVID-19 Working Paper: Filling the Pandemic Meal Gap: Disruptions to Child Nutrition Programs and Expansion of Free Meal Sites in the Early Months of the Pandemic, released October 12, 2021.

In fiscal year (FY) 2020, USDA’s four largest child nutrition programs provided the fewest meals since FY 2001

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

The USDA’s largest child nutrition programs—the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), School Breakfast Program (SBP), Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), and Summer Food Service Program (SFSP)—served about 7.9 billion meals in fiscal year (FY) 2020, the lowest number of meals served since FY 2001. This was a 17 percent decline from the average of 9.5 billion meals served annually by the programs from FY 2015 through FY 2019. The decrease is primarily attributable to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which disrupted in-person attendance at schools and childcare providers—through which NSLP, SBP, and CACFP typically operate—nationwide beginning in March 2020. To help facilitate the continued provision of meals to children and adolescents during these disruptions, USDA issued waivers allowing for greater flexibility in the administration of the child nutrition programs and expanded the scope and coverage of its summer feeding programs, including SFSP. Despite the overall decline in meals served, the number of meals served through SFSP rose substantially in FY 2020. The SFSP’s share of total meals served increased to 16.0 percent in FY 2020 from 1.5 percent in FY 2019. Comparatively, NSLP’s share of meals shrank to 41.0 percent in FY 2020 from 51.2 percent in FY 2019. Though less drastic, SBP’s and CACFP’s share of all meals served also decreased, to 23.1 percent in FY 2020 from 25.8 percent in FY 2019 for SBP and 19.8 percent in FY 2020 from 21.6 percent in FY 2019 for CACFP. Because of disruptions and changes to the child nutrition landscape in FY 2020, total spending on all four programs amounted to $21.1 billion, down from average annual expenditures of $22.9 billion in the previous five fiscal years. This chart is based on a chart in the USDA, Economic Research Service’s The Food and Nutrition Assistance Landscape: Fiscal Year 2020 Annual Report.

Pandemic response contributed to 32 percent increase in Federal food assistance spending in FY 2020

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Total spending on USDA’s food and nutrition assistance programs increased 32 percent from $92.5 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2019 to $122.1 billion in FY 2020. The way spending was distributed reflects changes to the food assistance landscape in FY 2020 resulting from the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and subsequent economic downturn and Federal response. Spending on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) increased because of greater participation and additional benefit issuance, accounting for 65 percent of total spending. Combined spending on the four largest child nutrition programs fell in FY 2020, as did spending on the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). Together these programs accounted for 21 percent of total spending. As part of the Federal response to the pandemic, two new assistance programs were created: Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) and the Farmers to Families Food Box Program. In FY 2020, P-EBT benefits totaled $10.7 billion, and Food Box Program spending totaled $2.5 billion. Together, these two programs accounted for 11 percent of overall food and nutrition assistance spending. This chart is based on data available as of January 2021 that is subject to revision and on a chart in the USDA, Economic Research Service’s Food and Nutrition Assistance Landscape: Fiscal Year 2020 Annual Report, released August 24, 2021.

USDA’s Summer Food Service Program provided a record number of meals in fiscal year 2020

Friday, July 16, 2021

USDA’s Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) typically provides nutritious meals to children and teens in low-income areas during unanticipated school closures between October and April or when schools are not in session, such as during summer break. In fiscal year (FY) 2020, the program served a record number of nearly 1.3 billion meals to children and teens, 8.9 times more than in FY 2019. Whereas participation in the program typically peaks in July, the SFSP in 2020 provided the most meals in May and continued to serve more than 200 million meals in September. The Government spent $4.1 billion on the program in FY 2020, up from $475 million in FY 2019. This increase reflects the expanded need for food assistance during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the Federal response to meet that need. The closure of schools and childcare providers beginning in March 2020 disrupted the distribution of meals through what are typically the largest of USDA’s Child Nutrition Programs: the National School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program, and the Child and Adult Care Food Program. In response, USDA issued waivers expanding the scope and coverage of the SFSP by allowing qualifying organizations to serve free meals throughout the year and in all areas, among other changes. This chart is based on data available as of January 2021 that is subject to revision and made available on the USDA, Economic Research Service’s (ERS) Summer Food Service Program section of the Child Nutrition Programs topic page, updated July 2021.

SNAP and P-EBT accounted for more than one-ninth of total food-at-home spending from April to September 2020

Monday, June 7, 2021

Shutdowns, stay-at-home orders, and the need for social distancing led households to buy more food for consumption at home during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. In response to the economic downturn and pandemic conditions, supplemental emergency allotments were issued to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) households and Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) benefits were distributed to households with children missing free and reduced-price school meals. This expansion of nutrition assistance led to a rapid increase in the dollar amount of these benefits issued to households and redeemed for food at home (FAH). In January and February 2020, SNAP benefit redemptions accounted for 6.8 percent of total FAH expenditures as estimated by the Food Expenditure Series. In March 2020, FAH spending spiked, causing SNAP’s share of FAH spending to fall. From March to June 2020, the introduction of P-EBT and increase in SNAP benefits led to rapid growth in these programs’ share of FAH spending. In June 2020, redemptions of these benefits peaked at $9.5 billion—making up 13.3 percent of FAH spending that month. This share fell the following three months. Overall, the share of total FAH spending attributable to SNAP and P-EBT from April through September 2020 was 11.7 percent—more than one in nine dollars and nearly 5 percentage points higher than SNAP’s share over the same months in 2019. This chart is based on a chart in the USDA, Economic Research Service’s COVID-19 Working Paper: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer Redemptions during the Coronavirus Pandemic, released March 2021.

Federal spending on food assistance reached record high of $122.1 billion in 2020

Friday, April 23, 2021

Errata: On June 3, 2022, the text and chart notes were revised to correctly identify the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).

Spending on USDA’s food and nutrition assistance programs jumped 30 percent in fiscal year (FY) 2020 to an inflation-adjusted record of $122.1 billion, abruptly reversing a six-year decline. This increase reflects the expanded need for food assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent Federal response to meet that need. This response included USDA waivers allowing flexibility in the administration of the Department’s 15 existing food and nutrition assistance programs and the creation of two programs, Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) and the Farmers to Families Food Box Program (Food Box Program). The rise in FY 2020 expenditures was driven by increased spending on these two new programs, as well as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) expenditures remained relatively unchanged while pandemic-induced disruptions in the operation of schools, childcare centers and daycare homes led to declines in child nutrition spending. This chart is based on data available on the USDA, Economic Research Service’s (ERS) General Overview of Food Assistance and Nutrition Programs webpage, updated April 2021.

Online redemptions of SNAP and P-EBT benefits rapidly expanded throughout 2020

Friday, April 16, 2021

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Online Purchasing Pilot began in 2019 as mandated by the 2014 Farm Act and was quickly expanded in 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The pilot allows households in participating States to use their SNAP benefits to purchase groceries online from a limited number of authorized retailers. Households can similarly use Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) benefits, which were issued in 2020 to households with children missing free and reduced-price school meals during the pandemic. Online transactions using benefits are subject to the same requirements as in-person transactions and cannot be spent on tips or fees. The number of States where SNAP and P-EBT benefits could be redeemed online grew from just one State at the beginning of 2020 to 46 States by the end of September 2020. As availability increased and the pandemic necessitated continued social distancing, the value of SNAP and P-EBT benefits redeemed online increased. In February 2020, households redeemed less than $3 million in benefits online, accounting for less than 0.1 percent of all benefits redeemed. By September, this amount grew to $196 million — 67 times its value in February. Overall, households redeemed $801 million in benefits online from February to September 2020. Despite this rapid growth, online redemptions accounted for only 2.4 percent of all benefits redeemed in September. This chart is based on a chart in the USDA, Economic Research Service’s COVID-19 Working Paper: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer Redemptions during the Coronavirus Pandemic, released March 2021.

SNAP and P-EBT benefit redemptions surpassed prior 3-year average in 2020

Thursday, April 8, 2021

The U.S. Government expanded existing food assistance programs and introduced new ones in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic contraction in the United States in 2020. Some States began issuing monthly supplemental emergency allotments to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) households in March 2020, with the rest beginning to do so in April 2020. All States issued Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) benefits to households with children who missed free or reduced-price school meals during the 2019-20 school year; the earliest States began issuing P-EBT benefits in April 2020. This led to a rapid increase in the dollar amount of food assistance benefits issued to households and redeemed for groceries during the pandemic. The value of total monthly redemptions roughly doubled from $4.7 billion in March 2020 to $9.5 billion in June 2020. Most P-EBT benefits for the 2019-20 school year were issued in May and June 2020, leading total redemptions to peak in June and decline over the next three months. By September, redemptions amounted to $8.1 billion. Overall, an average of $8.4 billion per month in combined SNAP and P-EBT benefits were redeemed from April through September 2020—an increase of 74 percent compared with the average value of benefits redeemed during the same 6 months in 2017-19. This chart is based on a chart in the USDA, Economic Research Service’s COVID-19 Working Paper: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer Redemptions during the Coronavirus Pandemic, released March 2021.

Participation in USDA’s School Breakfast Program doubled between 1999 and 2019

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Between 1999 and 2019, participation in USDA’s School Breakfast Program roughly doubled, increasing from 7.4 million children on a typical school day in fiscal year (FY) 1999 to 14.7 million in FY 2019. The Federal program makes healthy breakfasts available to all students in participating schools, with children from low-income households receiving the meals for free or at a reduced price. Most of the growth in participation over the last 2 decades has been among students receiving free breakfasts. Free breakfast participation rose from 5.7 million children in FY 1999 to 11.7 million in FY 2019, an increase of 5 million children. In FY 2019, 80 percent of breakfasts served were free, 5 percent were provided at a reduced price, and 15 percent were full price. Federal spending for the program totaled $4.5 billion in FY 2019—3 percent more than in the previous year. These data were collected before the COVID-19 pandemic and therefore do not account for pandemic-related conditions, including school closures and economic conditions. FY 2020 data that would reflect those circumstances are expected to be released during summer 2021. The data for this chart are from the USDA, Economic Research Service’s Child Nutrition Programs topic page.