New study and research brief describe school meal distribution during COVID-19 school closures and actionable steps for providing equitable meal access during emergencies

May 27, 2022

The Nutrition Policy Institute's CalFresh Healthy Living evaluation team analyzed data from a stratified, random sample of 190 CalFresh Healthy Living-eligible school districts in California to better understand equitable school meal distribution and changes in meal participation during COVID-19 school closures. Researchers found total school meals served decreased by a median of 46% between May 2019 and May 2020. While districts did a commendable job providing information and meals to families during school closures, there were gaps in communication about school meal eligibility requirements and menus. Additionally, while districts placed more school meal distribution sites in lower-income areas, the number of school meal distribution sites was not proportionate to the size of the population in those areas. The study was published in Preventive Medicine Reports. Researchers offer actionable steps and recommendations in an accompanying research brief for how programs like CalFresh Healthy Living can better support schools and provide equitable meal access during emergency school closures. The study and research brief are timely and important because emergency school closures will likely occur in the future as communities cope with floods, fires and other natural disasters. This work was conducted under contract with the California Department of Public Health with funding from the USDA Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed).

By Danielle L. Lee
Editor - Director of Communications & Research Engagement
By Kaela Plank
By Lorrene Ritchie
Editor - Director of the Nutrition Policy Institute and Cooperative Extension Nutrition Specialist
By Gail Woodward-Lopez