The Influence of the School Breakfast Program and National School Lunch Program on Child Weight and Academic Achievement
The High Price of Food Exacts a High Price on Low-Income Children’s Weight
Including Children’s Views Can Enhance Our Understanding of Food Insecurity
Going Digital: The Pros and Cons of Promoting Online Food Assistance Applications
Food insecurity exists in every county and congressional district in the country. But not everyone struggling with hunger qualifies for federal nutrition assistance. Learn more about local food insecurity and the food banks in your community by exploring data from Feeding America’s annual Map the Meal Gap project.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the cornerstone of U.S. efforts to alleviate hunger by supplementing the food budgets of low-income households. The large majority of SNAP recipients are children, working parents, elderly Americans, and people with disabilities. SNAP has also played an important role in lifting millions of people—especially children—out of poverty for the past five decades. This report provides an overview of the problem of food insecurity in the United States and the important role that SNAP plays in addressing it.
A growing body of high-quality research shows that SNAP is highly effective at reducing food insecurity, and in turn has important short-run and long-run benefits for low-income families. SNAP’s benefits are especially evident and wide-ranging for those who receive food assistance as children; they extend beyond the immediate goal of alleviating hunger and include improvements in short-run health and academic performance as well as in long-run health, educational attainment, and economic self-sufficiency.
Through USDA’s National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs, schools receive financial support to assist them in serving nutritious meals to students. Meal reimbursements are provided to a school food authority (SFA) on the basis of a child’s financial need, allowing schools to provide healthy meals to low-income students for free or at a reduced price. Reimbursement rates are set nationwide, yet variation in school location, size, and other factors may influence the costs to schools for providing meals, with implications for the adequacy of reimbursement. Previous ERS research using data from the 2002-03 school year found that school foodservice costs vary by location. This study uses those same data to build on that research by examining breakfast and lunch costs separately to assess how economies of scale and the balance between the number of breakfasts and lunches served affect costs. Costs of both breakfasts and lunches vary considerably across SFAs. Economies of scale exist for both breakfasts and lunches but are much stronger for breakfasts. The balance between breakfasts and lunches served also affects costs, with the cost per breakfast dropping dramatically as the number of breakfasts and lunches served become more balanced.
The Economic Research Service provides Research Innovation and Development Grants in Economics to stimulate innovative research on food and nutrition assistance issues. The SRDC is one of two partnership institutions.