Implementation of Universal School Meals during COVID-19 and beyond: Challenges and Benefits for School Meals Programs in Maine
During the COVID-19 pandemic, schools provided free school meals to all students in the United States, but this national universal school meals (USM) policy ended in school year (SY) 2022–2023; however, a few states have adopted policies to continue USM statewide for SY 2022–2023. We conducted a study with 43 school food authorities (SFAs) in Maine (with a USM policy) to evaluate the impact of COVID-19 and the concurrent implementation of USM, as well as examine differences in implementation by school characteristics, throughout the state. SFAs reported multiple benefits of USM including increased school meal participation; reductions in the perceived stigma for students from lower-income households and their families; and no longer experiencing unpaid meal charges and debt.
Full citation: Cohen, J., Polacsek, M., Hecht, C.E., Hecht, K., Read, M., Olarte, D., Patel., A., Schwartz, M.B., Turner, L., Zuercher, M., Gosliner, W., Richie., L. (2022) Implementation of Universal School Meals during COVID-19 and beyond: Challenges and Benefits for School Meals Programs in Maine. Nutrients, 14(19):4031. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu14194031