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Resources for State and Local Elected Officials
COVID meal distribution

Are you a policymaker looking for resources and recommendations to respond to food insecurity among your constituents during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Among the critical challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, food insecurity is one of the most widespread and solvable. This resource - Supporting Schools, Communities, and Nutrition Programs During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Recommended State Policy Actions - lists some options available to state policymakers to unlock the potential of federal and state food and nutrition programs and ensure that families and children have the support they need throughout this unprecedented crisis and beyond. 

Leverage Federal Waivers, Resources and Programs

  • Implement and Strengthen Pandemic-EBT (P-EBT) to ensure that families of students eligible for free and reduced-price meals have access to commensurate grocery benefits. 
  • Extend and Expand the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Waivers and Flexibilities, as authorized by Congress, to strengthen SNAP.
  • Draw Down Federal Emergency Relief Funds, like those listed below, to provide schools, local governments, and other entities have access to federal funds to support nutrition assistance in response to COVID-19. 
    • The CARES Act allocated more than $30 billion in emergency relief to schools and school districts struggling to operate during the COVID-19 outbreak. See our supplemental resource—The CARES Act: An Overview of Federal Funding for Schools and School Districts—for more information about these funds.
      • The Governor’s Emergency Relief Fund (GEERF), established by CARES Act, provides a total of $3 billion to Governors to support school districts impacted by the pandemic and their efforts to maintain core functionality and ongoing essential and emergency educational services including funding any other services that Governors deem critical for students.
      • The Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSERF), established by the CARES Act, appropriates $13.5 billion to support Local Educational Agencies' effort to provide a range of services and activities to meet the unique needs of low-income children and schools such as funding for planning and coordination of essential services like meal delivery.
      • The Coronavirus Relief Fund, established by the CARES Act, appropriates $150 billion to state, local, and tribal governments to broadly cover expenditures incurred due to the COVID-19 public health emergency.
    • The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has made Public Assistance Funds available to reimburse state, local, and tribal governments for eligible costs for the purchase and distribution of food in response to COVID-19. Eligible costs include those associated with purchasing, packaging, and/or delivering food commodities, fresh foods, shelf-stable food products, and prepared meals. Please see our supplemental resource—FEMA Public Assistance Grants: Leveraging Funds To Provide Meals To Vulnerable Families And Children During Covid-19—for more information about using these grants to meet nutritional needs in your community.

Opportunities for State Leadership

  • Ensure racial equity in responding to the impact of COVID-19 by gathering data about the health outcomes for racial and ethnic minority communities and allocating state resources accordingly to address disparities.
  • Support school and child nutrition program workers by ensuring access to personal protective equipment, supporting child care needs, and recognizing them for their incredible service to their communities.
  • Support schools and school district budgets by covering the costs emergency meal distribution and delivery and enhancing the school nutrition department’s capacity to continue meal service throughout the school year.
  • Ensure that schools and child nutrition program operators have needed flexibility to continue serving meals by working with the state agency to request and adopt all available waiver options.
  • Promote options that will help schools to reach more low-income families, like the adoption of the Community Eligibility Provision or active promotion of the application for free or reduced-price school meals.
  • Establish emergency response funds to ensure that food banks or other organizations have the resources they need to meet the unprecedented surge in demand for food services by vulnerable families. 
  • Support restaurants and culinary workers by, for example, establishing a statewide "Community Meals Fund" to empower the restaurant community to provide emergency and nutritious foods to families and children and providing financial support to industry workers impacted by restaurant closures.