March 9, 2023
Food Research & Action Center’s recently released report, The Reach of School Breakfast and Lunch During the 2021–2022 School Year, reveals that just over 15.5 million children received a school breakfast, and 29.9 million children received a school lunch on an average day during the 2021–2022 school year — an increase of 1.6 million children in breakfast, and 10.1 million in lunch compared to the 2020–2021 school year.
Participation was higher than that of pre-pandemic levels: just over 866,200 additional children participated in school breakfast and 1.4 million additional children participated in school lunch when compared to 2018–2019, which was the last full year before the pandemic.
This growth in participation shows just what is possible when meals are available to all students at no cost, and students are back in school. Bold and strategic action on the local, state, and federal levels to make Healthy School Meals for All a reality is needed so we don’t lose the progress made to date.
Key findings include:
- During the 2021–2022 school year, almost 2.4 billion school breakfasts were served through the Seamless Summer Option (SSO) and School Breakfast Program combined, an increase of 237.4 million school meals when compared to the 2020–2021 school year.
- School lunch saw an even more dramatic increase: During the 2021–2022 school year, just over 4.5 billion lunches were served through SSO and the National School Lunch Program combined, an increase of 1.5 billion meals when compared to the 2020–2021 school year.
- While school breakfast participation grew during the 2021–2022 school year when compared to the 2020–2021 school year, it did not keep pace with the rate of increase seen in school lunch. The ratio of children participating in school breakfast to children participating in school lunch was 51.8 per 100 during the 2021–2022 school year, compared to the ratio of 70.5:100 seen during the 2020–2021 school year.
As schools and advocates across the country celebrate National School Breakfast Week, March 6–10, now is the time to spotlight how Healthy School Meals for All, combined with proven best practices such as implementing innovative school breakfast models, is the path forward to ensure all children have access to the nutritious school meals they need to learn and thrive.