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Child Nutrition Program Operations During the COVID-19 Pandemic, March Through September 2020

Resource type
Research, Analysis & Background
Research type
Assessing/Improving Operations
Participation Characteristics
Participation Rates
Payment Accuracy and Program Integrity
Policy Analysis
Program Access
Resource Materials
PDF Icon Summary (243.90 KB)
PDF Icon Final Report (1.75 MB)

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Food and Nutrition Service’s (FNS) Child Nutrition (CN) programs help ensure that children have access to nutritious meals. The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP) operate in schools and the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) operates in childcare settings. The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted in-person education and childcare services, and therefore NSLP, SBP, and CACFP operations, in spring 2020.

In response, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), signed into law March 18, 2020, gave FNS authority to issue nationwide waivers of CN program requirements. In states that applied for the waivers, CN program operators served meals through the Seamless Summer Option (SSO) and Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) (which operate during unanticipated school closures as well as the summer), used new meal service methods that prioritized access and safety (such as grab n’ go meals), and had streamlined administrative requirements.

FFCRA required states to report the use of each waiver and whether and how it improved services for CN program participants. This data collection fulfills states’ reporting requirements and describes trends in program participation during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, March through September 2020. It is part of an ongoing study series examining CN program operations, repurposed to collect waiver reports from all states. A second report in the series detailed waiver usage and trends in program participation in operations from July 2020 through Dec. 2021.  

Page updated: May 03, 2024