New Report Reveals Devastating Drops in D.C. Breakfast and Lunch Participation Due to COVID School Closures

Media Contact:
Jordan Baker

WASHINGTON, March 9, 2021 — Thousands of children in the nation’s capital missed out on breakfast and lunch during the 2019–2020 school year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a report released during National School Breakfast Week by the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC).

FRAC’s School Meals: The Impact of the Pandemic on 54 Large School Districts report looks at survey findings from 54 large school districts in 28 states and the District of Columbia about their breakfast and lunch participation and operating status in October 2019, April 2020, and October 2020.

The Large School Districts report is the companion report to FRAC’s School Breakfast Scorecard, which looks at the number of low-income children who received free or reduced-price school breakfast through the School Breakfast Program on an average day during September 2019 through February 2020.

According to the report, D.C. Public Schools (DCPS) served 103,911 breakfasts and 104,196 lunches in April 2020, a decrease of 304,639 breakfast and 537,559 lunches when compared to October 2019.

Overall, DCPS served a combined total of:

  • 408,550 breakfasts and 641,755 lunches in October 2019,
  • 103,911 breakfasts and 104,196 lunches in April 2020, and
  • 49,629 breakfasts and lunches, equally, in October 2020.

In response to school closures, DCPS moved quickly to make breakfast and lunch available through “grab and go” meal sites, yet transportation to meal sites became an ongoing barrier for a majority of families.

“We applaud DCPS for their utilization of the many U.S. Department of Agriculture waivers that allowed for greater flexibilities for the school meals program such as parent/guardian pick up and multi-day meal packs,” said Beverley Wheeler, director of D.C. Hunger Solutions (DCHS). “However, this dramatic decrease in participation is alarming. Most sites are only open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and even if a family member is free during that time, they may not have the transportation and child care coverage to get to the nearest meal site.”

DCHS encourages the D.C. Council to support DCPS in implementing a pilot school meal delivery program to ensure children have access to healthy school meals, which help them learn whether they are in the classroom or attending classes remotely. Through delivery programs, busy families can easily, conveniently, and affordably receive school breakfast and lunch at their doorstep.

“We also call on D.C. leaders to help schools reach children with the nutrition they need to learn and thrive by doing everything they can to get its Pandemic EBT plan approved,” continued Wheeler.

Pandemic EBT is a lifeline for struggling families in the district, providing an EBT card with the value of free school meals to families who rely on school meals to keep hunger at bay. DCHS calls upon the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to quickly approve the plan, so the District can provide benefits for the 2020-2021 school year.

It’s not too late to reach children with the nutrition they need to learn and thrive.


About D.C. Hunger Solutions:
D.C. Hunger Solutions, founded in 2002 as an initiative of the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC), works to create a hunger-free community and improve the nutrition, health, economic security, and well-being of low-income people in the District of Columbia. To learn more about D.C. Hunger Solutions, visit