FRAC Media Contact:                         
Jordan Baker  

USDA Media Contact:

FNS Press

WASHINGTON, Dec. 5, 2023 — The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) have teamed up to competitively award five organizations a total of $1.1 million to research barriers to equitable access in the federal child nutrition programs and identify strategies to eliminate them. The effort is funded by USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service through a cooperative agreement with FRAC.

“The Biden-Harris Administration believes all Americans deserve to have consistent and equitable access to nutritious foods, and reaching that goal starts with our children,” said Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Consumer and Nutrition Services Stacy Dean. “USDA and FRAC’s investments in this critical research are a major step to ensuring our programs reach all eligible children across this country and help them reach their full potential.”

USDA and FRAC’s efforts to improve food security for school children and children in childcare settings are critical to fueling the health and development of our nation’s children. These programs, which include USDA’s National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, Summer Nutrition Programs, and Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), and the At-Risk Afterschool Meal Program, are proven to be instrumental in reducing childhood hunger, decreasing childhood obesity, improving child nutrition and wellness, supporting academic achievement, and enhancing child development and school readiness.

“The child nutrition programs are crucial for children’s well-being, yet many still miss out on the benefits,” said Luis Guardia, president of FRAC. “It’s time to innovate and ensure equitable access to ensure that every child’s health and nutritional needs are met. FRAC is excited to deepen its partnership with the USDA and support this diverse group of organizations as they tackle common program participation barriers associated with the child nutrition programs.”

A significant number of eligible children are either not participating in the programs or do not have programs available to them. The services delivered can vary by community, which could make inequities for historically and currently marginalized communities worse.

The Equitable Access in Child Nutrition Programs project will support research on barriers to participation and equitable delivery of service. This effort is made up of diverse subgrantees, including a public health department, institutions, and community-based organizations:

  • Johns Hopkins University: The university will create new measures of school meal quality with an equity lens, including the perceived quality of school meals and cultural relevance of school meals through the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program.
  • Trustees of Indiana University: The university will study disparities in CACFP participation and the inequities contributing to CACFP use among center-based Early Care and Education providers.
  • San Antonio Metropolitan Health District: The public health agency will investigate the systemic barriers and social and environmental factors that prevent Black and Latino youth (ages 12-18) in low-income and low food access areas of San Antonio from participating in the Summer Food Service Program and Afterschool Meal Program.
  • Hunger Solutions Minnesota: The nonprofit will investigate the impact of Minnesota’s Free School Meals for All program on Black, American Indians, and Latinx youth, including the positive effects of the program and the barriers that students face accessing school meals.
  • Feeding Kentucky: The nonprofit will research the barriers that exist on the state agency, sponsor, and site level in accessing summer meals (including non-congregate meals) and Summer EBT, with a specific focus on rural access.

Visit to learn more about the project and subgrant awardees. 


About USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service
USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service works to end hunger and improve food and nutrition security through a suite of 16 nutrition assistance programs, such as the school breakfast and lunch programs, WIC and SNAP. Together, these programs serve 1 in 4 Americans over the course of a year, promoting consistent and equitable access to healthy, safe, and affordable food essential to optimal health and well-being. FNS also provides science-based nutrition recommendations through the co-development of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. FNS’s report, “Leveraging the White House Conference to Promote and Elevate Nutrition Security: The Role of the USDA Food and Nutrition Service,” highlights ways the agency will support the Biden-Harris Administration’s National Strategy, released in conjunction with the historic White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health in September 2022. To learn more about FNS, visit and follow @USDANutrition.

About the Food Research & Action Center
The Food Research & Action Center improves the nutrition, health, and well-being of people struggling against poverty-related hunger in the United States through advocacy, partnerships, and by advancing bold and equitable policy solutions. To learn more, visit and follow us on X (formerly Twitter), Facebook, and Instagram.