Food Systems for Health

The Impact of Pandemic-related Waivers on Summer Meal Participation in Maryland

December 11, 2023

Following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020 many schools and offices began to close, leading many households with children in America to experience food insecurity. 

In an attempt to address this issue, policymakers joined the United States Department of Agriculture to issue a series of waivers which allowed school districts and other local sponsors to continue operating child nutrition programs through school systems. With support from the Bloomberg American Health Initiative, Dr. Susan Gross and Maryland Hunger Solutions assessed the impact of these waivers on participation in the Maryland Summer Food Service Program during the summer of 2021.  

They found that between 2020 and 2021 more meals were served and that the sponsors thought the waivers had a significantly positive impact on their summer meals operations.  

Results from their evaluation are summarized in a policy brief released in March 2022.   

These findings were based on participation data, survey results, and in-depth interviews with a subset of sponsors. All sponsors interviewed said the waivers were important to their operations and to their ability to serve more children in need. 

In 2023, the summer waiver distribution ceased. As of Summer 2023, only rural summer meal sponsors could offer non-congregate meals. All other sponsors have returned to pre-pandemic operations, impacting the accessibility of summer meals for children in Maryland 

Read more about their efforts in an article written for The Nation’s Health, a publication of the APHA, and a paper published in Nutrients.  

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