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Food insecurity rates differ across U.S. States

Monday, September 19, 2022

USDA monitors the extent of food insecurity in U.S. households at the national and State levels through an annual U.S. Census Bureau survey. State-level estimates are obtained by averaging 3 years of data. This approach generates a larger sample size in each State and provides more reliable statistics that allow more precise estimates and more power to detect differences across States. Food-insecure households are those that had difficulty at some time during the year providing enough food for all members of the house due to a lack of resources. Food insecurity rates vary across States because of household-level characteristics, State-level characteristics, and State-level policies. The estimated prevalence rates of food insecurity during 2019-21 ranged from 5.4 percent in New Hampshire to 15.3 percent in Mississippi. The estimated national average was 10.4 percent. The prevalence of food insecurity was significantly higher than the national average in nine States (AL, AR, KY, LA, MS, OK, SC, TX, and WV) and lower than the national average in the District of Columbia and 14 States (CA, IA, MA, MD, MN, ND, NH, NJ, PA, RI, SD, VA, VT, and WA). In the remaining 27 States, differences from the national average were not statistically significant. An interactive food insecurity map can be found on ERS’s Interactive Charts and Highlights page that allows users to view two measures of food insecurity over multiple years for each State. Users can also hover over the map to see State trends in food insecurity, how States compare to national food insecurity prevalence rates, and how States compare to each other. This map appears in ERS’s Key Statistics & Graphics page.

Food insecurity in U.S. households with children reached two-decade low in 2021

Monday, September 12, 2022

USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) monitors the prevalence of food insecurity in U.S. households with children by measuring food insecurity for the household overall, as well as for adults and children separately. The first measure, food insecurity in households with children, indicates that at least one person in the household—whether an adult, a child, or both—was food insecure. The second measure, food insecurity among children, indicates that households were unable at times to provide adequate, nutritious food for their children. Both annual measures improved in 2021. In 2021, 12.5 percent of households with children were food insecure, a significant decrease from 14.8 percent in 2020 and the lowest point in two decades. The decline means that in 2021 nearly 2.5 million fewer children lived in households that had difficulty at times providing enough food for all their members because of a lack of resources. Food insecurity among children in these households declined significantly as well. The prevalence of food insecurity among children in 2021 was 6.2 percent, down from 7.6 percent in 2020. The most severe category of food insecurity, called very low food security among children, affected 0.7 percent of households with children in 2021, not significantly different from the 2020 prevalence rate of 0.8 percent. This chart appears in the ERS report, Household Food Security in the United States in 2021, released September 7, 2022.

U.S. household food insecurity in 2021 unchanged from 2020

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) monitors the food security status of households in the United States through an annual nationwide survey. In 2021, 89.8 percent of U.S. households were food secure throughout the entire year, meaning they had access at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members. The remaining 10.2 percent of households were food insecure at least some time during the year, including 3.8 percent that experienced very low food security. In households reporting very low food security, the food intake of one or more household members was reduced and their eating patterns were disrupted at times during the year because the household lacked money and other resources for obtaining food. The 2021 prevalence of food insecurity, at 10.2 percent, was statistically unchanged from 2020. Very low food security was not significantly different from its 3.9-percent rate in 2020. This chart appears in the ERS report, Household Food Security in the United States in 2021, released September 7, 2022.

Spending on USDA’s two major school nutrition programs dropped from 2019 to 2021 as other programs filled pandemic-related gaps

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

The USDA’s National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP) typically make up the largest share of child nutrition program (CNP) expenditures. In fiscal year (FY) 2019, before the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, spending on the two programs amounted to about $18.7 billion, nearly 80 percent of the $23.6 billion spent on all CNP in that year. As a result of pandemic-related disruptions to school operations beginning in the second half of FY 2020, spending on the two programs declined to $13.9 billion in FY 2020 and $12.4 billion in FY 2021, making up about 43 percent of the $32.5 billion spent on CNP in FY 2020 and about 22 percent of the $56.7 billion spent in FY 2021. These declines were in part due to many schools transitioning to the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and the creation of the temporary Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer program (P-EBT), which increased CNP expenditures. Spending on SFSP increased from nearly $500 million in FY 2019 (about 2 percent of CNP expenditures) to $10.7 billion in FY 2021 (about 19 percent of CNP expenditures). P-EBT spending reached $10.7 billion in FY 2020 (about 33 percent of CNP expenditures) and $28.3 billion in FY 2021 (about 50 percent of CNP expenditures). Although spending on the Child and Adult Care Food Program was relatively stable across the three years, the program’s share of CNP spending declined from about 16 percent in FY 2019 to 7 percent in FY 2021 as overall expenditures increased. This chart is based on data available as of April 2022 that is subject to revision and made available on the USDA, Economic Research Service’s (ERS) Child Nutrition Programs topic page, updated August 2022.

Child participation in WIC increased in 2021, first time in more than a decade

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

USDA’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provides supplemental food packages, nutrition education, breastfeeding support, and health care referrals at no cost to low-income pregnant and postpartum women, infants, and children up to 5 years of age who are at nutritional risk. More than half of all WIC participants are children (54 percent) followed by infants (23 percent) and women (22 percent). WIC participation for the three groups combined has been declining for more than a decade. Participation averaged 6.2 million people per month in fiscal year (FY) 2021, nearly the same as the previous year, and 32 percent below the record high of 9.2 million in FY 2010. In FY 2021, participation by women decreased by 5 percent and infant participation decreased by 6 percent from the previous year. Declines in the number of births in the United States, which began in 2008, may be a factor in these participation declines. Child participation, on the other hand, reversed course in FY 2021, and increased by 5 percent from the previous year. This was the first increase in child participation in more than a decade. Administrative flexibilities put in place in response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic may have helped to support participation, especially among children. Beginning in FY 2020 and continuing through FY 2021, USDA waivers temporarily allowed State agencies to extend certification periods for certain WIC participants by up to 3 months and to conduct remote certifications for applicants and recertifications for WIC participants. This chart appears in the USDA, Economic Research Service’s Food and Nutrition Assistance Landscape: Fiscal Year 2021 Annual Report, released June 22, 2022.

SNAP spending reached record high of $113.8 billion in fiscal year 2021

Monday, July 25, 2022

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the largest domestic nutrition assistance program, accounting for about two-thirds of USDA spending on food and nutrition assistance in recent years. Fiscal year (FY) 2021 marked record Federal spending on SNAP and the second year of increased spending and participation since 2019. This reflects the economic downturn as well as the temporary expansion of SNAP benefits following the onset of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. SNAP benefits were expanded in two major ways. First, emergency allotments (EAs) were issued beginning in FY 2020. EAs supplement SNAP recipients’ regular benefits—which are based on household size and net income—bringing all households’ total monthly benefit to the maximum benefit amount if they did not already receive that amount. EAs were later revised in FY 2021 to provide a minimum of $95 in monthly benefits to all recipients. By the end of FY 2021, eight States stopped providing EAs. Second, the maximum SNAP benefit was temporarily increased by 15 percent in FY 2021. Spending on SNAP in FY 2021 totaled $113.8 billion, 38 percent more than the previous year and 25 percent more than the previous high in FY 2013, adjusting for inflation. Average participation was 41.5 million people in FY 2021, or 12.5 percent of the U.S. resident population, roughly 6 million fewer than the record high participation of FY 2013. This chart is based on a chart in the USDA, Economic Research Service’s Food and Nutrition Assistance Landscape: Fiscal Year 2021 Annual Report, released June 22, 2022.

USDA’s temporary Farmers to Families Food Box Program delivered 176.4 million food boxes from May 2020 through May 2021

Thursday, July 21, 2022

In response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the Federal government passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). FFCRA authorized USDA to create the Farmers to Families Food Box Program (Food Box Program), along with several other programs, to support the agricultural sector and help families experiencing food hardship. Through the Food Box Program, USDA contracted with intermediaries to purchase fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy products, and meat produced in the United States; package these agricultural commodities into family-sized boxes; and transport these boxes to food banks and other charitable organizations for distribution to families in need. The program awarded contracts in five rounds of varying lengths and food boxes were delivered from May 15, 2020, through May 31, 2021, when the program expired. During its year of operation, the program delivered a total of 176.4 million food boxes at a cost of about $5.5 billion. Of all the food boxes delivered, 101.8 million were delivered in rounds 1 and 2 of the program, roughly corresponding to the last 5 months of fiscal year (FY) 2020, and 74.6 million were delivered in rounds 3 through 5, roughly corresponding to the first 8 months of FY 2021. This chart is based on a chart in the USDA, Economic Research Service’s The Food and Nutrition Assistance Landscape: Fiscal Year 2021 Annual Report.

Temporary programs made up 17 percent of Federal food and nutrition assistance spending in FY 2021

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Total spending on USDA’s food and nutrition assistance programs reached $182.5 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2021. The distribution of this spending across programs reflects the Federal response to the ongoing Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which included expansions of existing programs as well as the continued operation of two temporary programs—Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) and the Farmers to Families Food Box Program (which ended in May 2021). Together, these temporary programs accounted for 17.2 percent of nutrition assistance spending in FY 2021. Spending on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) accounted for 62.4 percent of total spending in the same year. A temporary benefit increase, the expansion of emergency allotments, and higher participation contributed to the record-high Federal SNAP spending of $113.8 billion. Combined spending on the four largest child nutrition programs accounted for 15.6 percent of total spending in FY 2021. The Summer Food Service Program, which schools used to provide free meals in FY 2021, including during unanticipated closures, made up the largest share of this spending. The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) accounted for 2.7 percent of total spending. This chart is based on data available as of April 2022 that is subject to revision and a chart in the USDA, Economic Research Service’s Food and Nutrition Assistance Landscape: Fiscal Year 2021 Annual Report, released June 22, 2022.

Federal spending on food assistance reached record high of $182.5 billion in 2021

Thursday, June 23, 2022

USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) released “The Food and Nutrition Assistance Landscape: Fiscal Year 2021 Annual Report” on Wednesday, June 22. The report examines program trends and policy changes in USDA’s largest U.S. food and nutrition assistance programs through fiscal year 2021. An overview of the annual ERS report will be provided in a webinar at 1 p.m. EDT, Thursday, June 23. To join or register, click here.

Spending on USDA’s food and nutrition assistance programs jumped 43 percent in fiscal year (FY) 2021 to an inflation-adjusted record high of $182.5 billion. This increase reflected the heightened need for food assistance during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the subsequent Federal response. In FY 2021, USDA expanded program benefits, approved waivers allowing flexibility in the administration of existing food and nutrition assistance programs, and continued to operate two temporary programs, Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) and the Farmers to Families Food Box Program (Food Box Program). P-EBT and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) experienced the largest increases in spending from FY 2020, 162 percent and 44 percent, respectively. These increases reflect P-EBT’s operation throughout all of FY 2021 (compared with only part of FY 2020) and the issuance of SNAP emergency allotments, which temporarily raised all recipients’ benefits up to or above the maximum benefit for their household size. Combined spending on the four largest child nutrition programs (the National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, Child and Adult Care Food Program, and Summer Food Service Program) increased, as did spending on both the Food Box Program and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). This chart is based on data available as of April 2022 that are subject to revision and a chart appearing in the USDA, Economic Research Service’s Food and Nutrition Assistance Landscape: Fiscal Year 2021 Annual Report, released June 22, 2022.

Infants in USDA’s WIC Program consumed an estimated 56 percent of U.S. infant formula in 2018

Monday, May 23, 2022

Disruptions to the U.S. infant formula market may impact participants in USDA’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) because many infants receive formula from the program. The share of formula in the United States that is consumed by WIC infants ages 0 to 12 months is estimated to have been about 56 percent in 2018 compared to 58 percent in 2005. Both estimates are derived from the numbers of WIC and non-WIC infants and the estimated shares of each group that consume formula. The estimates assume that all formula-fed infants consume the same amount of formula independently of WIC participation status, age, weight, and other factors. The information on breastfeeding and formula-feeding practices for WIC and non-WIC infants comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Immunization Survey, for which 2018 is the most current data publicly available. The numbers of WIC and non-WIC infants come from USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service. Even though fewer than half of all infants in the United States participated in WIC in 2018, WIC infants are more likely to be formula-fed compared with non-WIC infants, resulting in an estimated 56 percent share of formula consumption in 2018. This chart updates information in the ERS report, Rising Infant Formula Costs to the WIC Program: Recent Trends in Rebates and Wholesale Prices, February 2010.

USDA’s School Breakfast Program served about 59 billion meals from 1975 through 2020

Monday, March 7, 2022

The USDA’s School Breakfast Program (SBP) was permanently authorized as a Child Nutrition Program in 1975. In fiscal year (FY) 2019, the program served about 14.8 million children each school day across 90,833 schools and residential childcare institutions. Any student in a participating school can get an SBP breakfast. Students may be eligible for either a free, reduced-price, or full-price breakfast depending on their household’s income. Students can receive a free breakfast if their household’s income is at or below 130 percent of the Federal poverty line (FPL), a reduced-price breakfast if their household’s income is between 130 and 185 percent of the FPL, and a full-price breakfast if their household’s income is above 185 percent of the FPL. From 1975 through FY 2020, the program has served nearly 59 billion breakfasts. On average, 85 percent of breakfasts were served for free or at a reduced price each year. The onset of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in March 2020 interrupted the operations of many schools, thereby disrupting the provision of breakfasts through the SBP in FY 2020. As a result, about 1.8 billion breakfasts were served through the program in that year, roughly 620 million fewer than the amount served in FY 2019. This drop reflects the use of COVID-19 waivers that allowed schools to serve meals through the Summer Food Service Program. The data for this chart are from the USDA, Economic Research Service’s School Breakfast Program page on the Child Nutrition Programs topic page.

SNAP spending contributed to rural economic output and jobs following the Great Recession

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides low-income U.S. households assistance to buy food items, which helps to support the economy during periods of high unemployment. Researchers at USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) studied the effect SNAP benefits had on the rural and urban economies during the period of high unemployment following the Great Recession from 2009–14. They found household spending of SNAP benefits contributed disproportionately more to the rural economy. SNAP benefits can only be used on food items—farm goods (such as fruits, vegetables, and milk) and processed foods (such as breads and pastas)—but using them frees up money to spend on other nonfood items. ERS researchers found SNAP benefit spending caused a ripple effect that helped to support local jobs and contributed to economic output through the production of goods and services. During the 6-year period, average annual SNAP benefit expenditures of $71 billion (in 2014 dollars) generated an annual increase in rural economic output of $49 billion and an urban output of $149 billion. Expenditures supported the employment of 279,000 rural workers and 811,000 urban workers. When measured in total dollars and numbers of jobs, household spending of SNAP benefits generated larger economic impacts in the urban economy. However, when measured as a share of total economic output and employment, SNAP generated larger relative impacts in the rural economy. Household expenditures of SNAP benefits increased rural economic output annually by 1.25 percent and rural employment by 1.18 percent. For the urban economy, SNAP benefits increased economic output by 0.53 percent and employment by 0.50 percent. This chart appears in the Amber Waves finding USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Contributed to Rural Economic Output, Jobs Following the Great Recession, released December 7, 2021.

Fiscal Year 2020 marks decade of declining participation in USDA’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

USDA’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provides supplemental food packages, nutrition education, breastfeeding support, and health care referrals at no cost to low-income pregnant and postpartum women, infants, and children up to 5 years of age who are at nutritional risk. Fiscal year (FY) 2020 marked the 10th consecutive fiscal year WIC participation declined. On average, 6.2 million people a month participated in WIC in FY 2020, which ended September 30, 2020, a 2-percent drop from FY 2019 and a 32-percent drop from 2010. About half of all participants in FY 2020 were children 1 through 4 years of age, while women (23 percent) and infants (25 percent) made up the other half of participants. The reduction in participation was more pronounced for women and infants than for children. Participation fell 5 percent for women and 4 percent for infants from the previous fiscal year, whereas the number of children participating fell by 1 percent. This chart is based on data available as of January 2021 that is subject to revision and appears in the USDA, Economic Research Service’s Food and Nutrition Assistance Landscape: Fiscal Year 2020 Annual Report, released in August 2021.

Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer payments raised overall spending on USDA’s child nutrition programs in FY 2020

Friday, December 17, 2021

In March 2020, as the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic forced the closure of schools nationwide, the provision of meals to children through USDA’s National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP) was disrupted. In response, Congress authorized the creation of the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program to reimburse families whose children were eligible for free or reduced-price school meals for the value of the school meals their children missed due to pandemic-related school closures. In the first half of fiscal year (FY) 2020 (October 2019 through March 2020), spending on USDA’s largest child nutrition programs was about the same as in the first half of FY 2019 (October 2018 through March 2019). Those programs are the NSLP, SBP, Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), and the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). With the onset of the pandemic, spending on the NSLP, SBP, and CACFP fell to about $4.7 billion in the second half of FY 2020, a sharp decline compared to the roughly $9.9 billion spent on the programs over the same period in FY 2019. Although this decline was somewhat offset by about $3.9 billion in spending on SFSP in the latter half of FY 2020, overall spending on the four programs declined. However, P-EBT spending in the second half of FY 2020 amounted to about $10.7 billion, bringing total FY 2020 USDA expenditures on nutrition programs targeting children to $32.3 billion, or $8.7 billion more than all FY 2019 expenditures. This chart appears in the Amber Waves feature Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic Transformed the U.S. Federal Food and Nutrition Assistance Landscape, released October 4, 2021.

Participation by children in USDA’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) increased during FY 2020

Monday, November 8, 2021

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provides supplemental food packages, nutrition education, breastfeeding support, and health care referrals at no cost to pregnant and postpartum women, infants, and children up to 5 years of age who are at nutritional risk. Before the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, most WIC services, including certification, recertification, and supplemental food package issuance, were provided in-person at WIC clinics. During the pandemic, USDA issued waivers that enabled WIC State agencies to provide various WIC services remotely to protect the health and safety of staff and participants through social distancing. For example, most WIC State agencies applied for and received USDA waivers to allow for remote certification and recertification of WIC recipients, which may have influenced WIC participation. During the second half of fiscal year (FY) 2020 (April through September 2020), average monthly participation rates for women and infants declined by about 42,000 women and 22,000 infants per month, while average monthly participation rates for children 1 to 4 years of age increased by about 200,000 children per month. Further, many State WIC agencies received waivers to allow for substitutions to items included in participants’ food packages to address pandemic-induced food shortages. Despite these allowances, USDA spending on WIC food package redemptions, referred to as WIC food costs, fell in the months following the onset of the pandemic. On average, monthly food costs in the second half of FY 2020 were about $20 million lower than food costs in the first half of FY 2020. This chart is based on data available as of January 2021 that is subject to revision and appears in the October 2021 Amber Waves article, “Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic Transformed the U.S. Federal Food and Nutrition Assistance Landscape”.

Most U.S. counties exempt groceries from sales taxes

Friday, November 5, 2021

Foods purchased at grocery stores, supercenters, and other retail venues were exempt from sales taxes in 57 percent of U.S. counties in 2019. The remaining counties taxed food purchases at various levels across 18 states, mostly in the Southeast and Midwest. Alabama’s Tuscaloosa and Cullman counties had the highest grocery tax rate at 9 percent (4 percent State plus 5 percent county). Grocery tax rates not only vary across different States, counties, and cities, but they can also change over time. Using county-level tax data in combination with the USDA’s National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey (FoodAPS), researchers at USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) recently examined whether grocery taxes are associated with how much money U.S. households spend for food at retail outlets and restaurants. ERS found that grocery taxes were associated with differences in food spending among lower-income households that were eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) but did not participate in it. Among those households, researchers were able to associate taxes on groceries with reduced food spending at retail stores and increased food spending at restaurants. However, Federal law and USDA regulations stipulate that foods purchased with SNAP benefits are exempt from State and local sales taxes, and no such relationship was found among households participating in SNAP. This chart is drawn from the ERS report Food Taxes and Their Impacts on Food Spending, released September 2021.

USDA Seamless Summer Option and Summer Food Service Program meal sites expanded earlier in 2020 than in 2019

Friday, October 29, 2021

Beginning in March 2020, the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic caused school and childcare provider closures, disrupting the distribution of meals through USDA’s largest child nutrition programs: The National School Lunch Program (NSLP), School Breakfast Program (SBP), and Child and Adult Care Food Program. In response, USDA expanded the scope and coverage of the NSLP’s and SBP’s Seamless Summer Option (SSO) and the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). The SSO and SFSP typically provide meals to children and teens in low-income areas during unanticipated school closures between October and April or when schools are not in session, such as during summer break. USDA waived these requirements, allowing qualifying organizations to serve free meals to children and teens in all areas throughout the year. As a result, the number of free meal sites open to all children as reported by States grew rapidly in the early months of the pandemic. At least 28,987 sites were operating in March 2020, and at least 31,347 by May 2020, well above the 6,254 sites reported in May 2019. In June and July of 2020, the number of reported free meal sites open to all children was lower compared to the same months in 2019. Although fewer free meal sites were reported as operating, more children received meals through the SSO and SFSP during June and July of 2020 compared with the same months in the previous year. This chart is based on data presented in the USDA, Economic Research Service’s COVID-19 Working Paper: Filling the Pandemic Meal Gap: Disruptions to Child Nutrition Programs and Expansion of Free Meal Sites in the Early Months of the Pandemic, released October 12, 2021.

USDA's Summer Food Service Program served a record number of free meals despite fewer sites in fiscal year 2020

Friday, October 22, 2021

The USDA Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) typically provides free nutritious meals to children and teens in low-income areas through qualifying organizations during unanticipated school closures from October through April or when schools are not in session, such as during summer break. In response to school and childcare provider closures caused by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, USDA expanded the scope and coverage of the SFSP by allowing qualifying organizations to serve free meals throughout the year and in all areas through the program. As a result, the program set a record in fiscal year 2020 for number of meals served. In July 2020, participation in the program reached a historical high of 4.7 million. However, the increase in participation was not matched by an increase in SFSP sites. The number of SFSP free meal sites, including sites open to all children and sites serving only enrolled children, had steadily increased over much of the last decade, peaking at 50,080 in July 2017 before declining to 47,471 by July 2019 and 37,498 in July 2020. This chart is based on a chart in the USDA, Economic Research Service’s COVID-19 Working Paper: Filling the Pandemic Meal Gap: Disruptions to Child Nutrition Programs and Expansion of Free Meal Sites in the Early Months of the Pandemic, released October 12, 2021.

Emergency allotments, participation increase led to 66-percent increase in SNAP benefits in second half of FY 2020

Friday, October 8, 2021

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic increased the need for U.S. nutrition assistance in fiscal year (FY) 2020. To help meet this need, States with emergency or disaster declarations related to COVID-19 were allowed several flexibilities in administering the USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), including the option to provide emergency allotments to supplement regular benefits. Regular SNAP benefits are provided monthly and vary based on household size, income, and expenses. In FY 2020, emergency allotments supplemented the benefits of SNAP households receiving less than the maximum benefit, effectively raising all participating households’ monthly benefit amount to the maximum allowed for their size. The first States began issuing emergency allotments in late March 2020, and almost all States issued emergency allotments monthly through the end of the fiscal year in September 2020. SNAP participation rose to an average 42.5 million people per month in the second half of FY 2020 (April to September 2020), a 14-percent increase from 37.3 million in the first half (October 2019 to March 2020). Total SNAP benefits jumped to an average $7.7 billion a month in the second half of FY 2020, up 66 percent from $4.6 billion a month in the first half. Emergency allotments accounted for 30 percent of total benefits in the second half of FY 2020, or $2.3 billion a month. Together, these changes caused average monthly benefits per person to increase from about $125 in the first half of FY 2020 to about $181 in the second. This chart is based on a chart in the USDA, Economic Research Service’s Food and Nutrition Assistance Landscape: Fiscal Year 2020 Annual Report, released August 24, 2021.

In fiscal year (FY) 2020, USDA’s four largest child nutrition programs provided the fewest meals since FY 2001

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

The USDA’s largest child nutrition programs—the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), School Breakfast Program (SBP), Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), and Summer Food Service Program (SFSP)—served about 7.9 billion meals in fiscal year (FY) 2020, the lowest number of meals served since FY 2001. This was a 17 percent decline from the average of 9.5 billion meals served annually by the programs from FY 2015 through FY 2019. The decrease is primarily attributable to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which disrupted in-person attendance at schools and childcare providers—through which NSLP, SBP, and CACFP typically operate—nationwide beginning in March 2020. To help facilitate the continued provision of meals to children and adolescents during these disruptions, USDA issued waivers allowing for greater flexibility in the administration of the child nutrition programs and expanded the scope and coverage of its summer feeding programs, including SFSP. Despite the overall decline in meals served, the number of meals served through SFSP rose substantially in FY 2020. The SFSP’s share of total meals served increased to 16.0 percent in FY 2020 from 1.5 percent in FY 2019. Comparatively, NSLP’s share of meals shrank to 41.0 percent in FY 2020 from 51.2 percent in FY 2019. Though less drastic, SBP’s and CACFP’s share of all meals served also decreased, to 23.1 percent in FY 2020 from 25.8 percent in FY 2019 for SBP and 19.8 percent in FY 2020 from 21.6 percent in FY 2019 for CACFP. Because of disruptions and changes to the child nutrition landscape in FY 2020, total spending on all four programs amounted to $21.1 billion, down from average annual expenditures of $22.9 billion in the previous five fiscal years. This chart is based on a chart in the USDA, Economic Research Service’s The Food and Nutrition Assistance Landscape: Fiscal Year 2020 Annual Report.