Child Nutrition Programs

USDA's child nutrition programs help ensure that children receive nutritious meals and snacks that promote health and educational readiness. The child nutrition programs are administered by USDA's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS). In fiscal year (FY) 2019, total expenditures on these programs amounted to $23.6 billion. Expenditures declined to $21.7 billion in FY 2020, attributable to disruptions in the operation of child nutrition programs in the second half of FY 2020 due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

In response to these disruptions and to meet rising food needs during the pandemic, USDA issued waivers allowing for flexibilities in the implementation of its child nutrition programs and expanded the scope of both the National School Lunch Program’s and School Breakfast Program’s Seamless Summer Option, as well as the scope of the Summer Food Service Program. Additionally, USDA implemented a new, temporary program in FY 2020 - Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT) - to reimburse families with children eligible for free or reduced-price school meals for the value of school meals missed due to COVID-19 related school closures. Expenditures on this program amounted to nearly $10.7 billion in FY 2020.

Participation in USDA’s child nutrition programs has been found to reduce food insecurity. To learn more, please see:

Information about program eligibility requirements, benefits, and the application process is available from the Food and Nutrition Service. For more information on specific child nutrition programs, please see:

All figures are based on data available as of January 2021 and are subject to revision.

For the latest information on updates to the program during the COVID-19 pandemic, see FNS Responds to COVID-19.

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