Experiences and Impacts from the 2020 Meals-to-You Program

Research Report

Experiences and Impacts from the 2020 Meals-to-You Program

Abstract

This report shares Year 2 (2020) findings from an ongoing evaluation of the Meals-to-You (MTY) program, a pilot program administered by the Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty (BCHP) and funded by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). The original aim of the MTY pilot was to provide a stable and reliable source of food through home delivery to children in rural areas who lack access to Summer Food Service Program sites. The first year of the program, in 2019, tested the model in multiple school districts in Texas and was known as Summer Meals-to-You (sMTY). In 2020, BCHP had planned to expand the summer pilot program beyond Texas to include children in parts of Alaska and New Mexico. However, in spring 2020, as part of the emergency response to reductions in school meal access due to school closures in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, USDA funded a dramatic expansion of the program called Emergency Meals-to-You (eMTY). This report covers the 2020 sMTY program in Texas, New Mexico, and Alaska and the eMTY program.

The Urban Institute is the independent program evaluator of the original three-year pilot program and was contracted by BCHP to conduct an evaluation of eMTY. We found the following:

  • The eMTY and sMTY programs reached households across the country, serving 129,016 households and 272,527 participants across 42 states and Puerto Rico in summer 2020.
  • MTY meals reduced food insecurity. Every additional 10 MTY meals (one week of meals through the program) reduced household food insecurity 0.94 to 0.95 percentage points across the two study periods.
    • MTY reduced food insecurity more for households living in more rural ZIP codes, though households in less rural areas also benefited. Receiving an additional week of meals reduced the rate of food insecurity by about twice as much in more rural areas relative to less rural areas.
  • Shipping was one of the greatest challenges to the program. The number of stakeholders involved, paired with the rapid scale-up of the program, led to challenges in accurately and quickly coordinating to meet the needs of a program on this scale and time frame.
    • Vendors faced shortages and competition due to supply chain disruptions, triggering the need for substitutes and workarounds to comply with USDA’s nutritional requirements.
    • Among participants reporting having received a box, at the end of the summer, 40 percent reported receiving damaged products at some point but no other negative experiences, while 13 percent reported damaged products plus an additional negative experience, such as not being able to eat a food item because of a food intolerance/allergy or cultural/religious consideration.

The report also contains several recommendations based on issues observed during the 2020 program year, addressing school district enrollment, family engagement, vendor food sourcing, and shipping issues. Overall, the MTY program was an important resource for families during a tumultuous year of heightened food insecurity and material hardship, particularly among families with children.

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