The School Nutrition Association’s (SNA) latest School Meal Participation Tracker report details participation and meals served during School Year (SY) 2022-23, as compared to pre-pandemic years and SY 2021-22, when federal pandemic waivers allowed all schools to offer free meals to all students.
The analysis of national data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Services (USDA FNS) shows that average daily participation (ADP) and total meals served for lunch and breakfast during SY 2022-23 were lower than in SY 2021-22 and in SY 2018-19, the last complete pre-pandemic school year.
Notably, the loss of free school meals for all students has contributed to a significant drop in ADP. Comparing preliminary SY2022-23 data to SY2021-22 data, the report finds a:
- 6.44% drop in lunch ADP
- 8.67% drop in breakfast ADP
SNA is advocating for offering free meals to all students without an application to allow more students to eat nutritious school lunches and breakfasts, proven to contribute to improved health and academic outcomes.
A smaller decline in ADP and meals served is also evident when assessing pre-pandemic and post-pandemic data. Comparing preliminary SY 2022-23 to SY 2018-19 data shows a:
- 3.85% drop in lunch ADP and 4.76% drop in total lunches served
- 2.30% drop in breakfast ADP and 3.66% drop in total breakfasts served