As coronavirus causes school closures, districts across the country are searching for ways to feed students who rely on school lunches

As coronavirus causes school closures, districts across the country are searching for ways to feed students who rely on school lunches

CORONAVIRUS schools closed

REUTERS/Adriano Machado

A pencil is seen on a table of a classroom at a public school, as it is closed for five days after reports of the coronavirus in Brasilia, Brazil March 12, 2020.

  • Schools across the US are closing as a social distancing measure to limit the spread of the new coronavirus.
  • The closures are an obstacle for millions of students who rely on school meals for nutrition and may not have access to full meals otherwise.
  • School districts across the country are finding their own unique ways to make sure students are fed while schools are closed.
  • The USDA has put waivers in place to allow schools to provide meals in non-group settings.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

School districts all across the US are closing schools amid the coronavirus outbreak, which poses a challenge for the millions of students who receive their meals at school, CNN reported.

While there have been very few coronavirus infections in children, schools are closing as a social distancing measure. K-12 schools are shutting down in the states of Ohio, Maryland, Michigan, and some large cities like San Francisco and Seattle are also shuttering schools for several weeks, USA Today reported.

Millions of students depend on the US Department of Agriculture's National School Meal Program. The program provides free and low-cost meals to students every school day. In 2016, more than 30 million students benefitted from the program.

Alexis Glick, CEO of GENYOUth, a "child-wellness nonprofit focused on creating healthy school communities," said in a statement many students in "high-need and under-served schools" rely on these meals for their nutrition and in some cases, these meals may be the only meals they get.


According to No Kid Hungry, around 11 million children come from food-insecure homes, meaning they don't always get enough food to be healthy and nutritious.

School districts are taking steps to ensure that students still receive meals, even while schools are shut down.

The Northshore School District in Washington State, for example, is offering meals that can be picked up at 22 school locations, after they moved their classes online when a parent tested positive for new coronavirus.

According to CNN, school districts must work through a "web of federal rules governing when and where students can receive food."

However, the US Department of Agriculture allows some flexibility for making sure students who depend on school meals can access them in times of pandemic. They also issued some additional waivers in light of the current outbreak.


Typically, if a school closes unexpectedly, they can use programs for summer meal programs to provide food to students in a "group setting." The group setting requirements can be waived during a public health emergency where people need to practice social distancing.

Other school districts are creating a variety of plans to tackle closures.

In New York City, which has over a million students, a Department of Education spokesperson told CNN, if schools close for more than a day, they'll have "grab-and-go breakfast and lunch for any student who wants it. "

In Chicago, a hotline and email were created for families who need help with meals, a spokesperson for the Chicago Public Schools told CNN.

Other districts are also working on various plans for making sure students don't go hungry. According to Glick, some school districts are even using school buses to drop off meals on the route.


In the US, more than 1,700 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed and at least 41 people have died.