December 15, 2020

During the holidays and all year long, millions of individuals and families who struggle against hunger are able to access healthy food with support from the federal nutrition programs. This year, the federal nutrition programs have played a critical role in ensuring people can continue to put food on the table during the twin COVID-19 public health and economic crises.

To celebrate the nation’s nutrition safety net, FRAC is releasing a seven-part “Remember This December” series that will highlight the impact of seven important federal nutrition programs.

This is the second installment of the series, which focuses on school lunchRead the previous installment on afterschool meals.

School lunch plays an important role in the health and well-being of students, especially those who live in low-income households, by ensuring that children have the nutrition they need to learn all day long.

This year, when schools closed due to the pandemic, school districts and community partners implemented innovative strategies to continue to provide school meals. USDA provided nationwide waivers such as allowing schools to provide lunch to all students at no charge and allowing meals to be picked up and taken home to eat.

Congress also authorized a new program called Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) as part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. P-EBT provides nutritional resources to families who have lost access to free or reduced-price school meals due to school closures. Families receive money on a new or existing EBT card to help fill the school meals gap. A joint report by FRAC and CBPP documents the success and implementation of this new program.

A vast body of research supports the health and educational benefits of participating in the National School Lunch Program, including a reduction in food insecurity and obesity rates. Find out more about the impact of school lunch below:

  • School lunch ensures children are ready to learn throughout the day: The National School Lunch Program is the nation’s second-largest federal nutrition program after the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Nearly 97,000 schools across the country (approximately 95 percent) participate in the program.
  • School lunch is critical for classroom achievement: School lunch fuels children’s minds, helping to boost academic performance, support overall cognitive development, and reduce behavioral problems.
  • School lunch provides children with the nutrition they need: Reimbursable meals must meet federal nutrition standards. National School Lunch Program lunches provide one-third or more of the recommended daily levels for key nutrients. Research indicates that children who participate in the National School Lunch Program have superior nutritional intakes compared to those who bring lunch from home or otherwise do not participate.
  • School lunch is being offered at no charge to 14.9 million students who attend high-poverty schools: Community eligibility increases participation in school lunch (and school breakfast) and dramatically reduces administrative burdens, allowing schools to focus on serving nutritious and appealing school meals instead of dealing with paperwork.
  • FRAC’s 2020 report on community eligibility found an increase in participation. 5,133 school districts had one or more schools participating in community eligibility in the 2019—2020 school year, an increase of 435 school districts, or 9.3 percent, from the 2018–2019 school year

School meals continue to be crucial to ensure children can access nutritious meals during COVID-19. Learn more about school meals at, and learn more about the federal nutrition programs during COVID-19 at

Share our “Remember This December” school meals graphic.

Click to tweet: #RememberThisDecember that hunger is solvable with the federal nutrition programs, including the National School Lunch Program! Learn more about the impact of #schoollunch w/ @fractweets latest blog:

Watch our video on the importance of federal the nutrition programs.