As the recession persists and the White House and Congress have failed to agree on additional economic relief, families with school-age children also face uncertainty around in-person school attendance and access to school meals. In this brief, we use data from the most recent wave of the Coronavirus Tracking Survey, a nationally representative survey of nonelderly adults conducted September 11–28, 2020, to examine food insecurity among families with school-age children six months into the pandemic. We find the following:
- One in four (24.7 percent) families with school-age children reported household food insecurity in September; this rate rose to over one in three (36.9 percent) among families in which someone lost work or work-related income at some point during the pandemic.
- Substantial racial/ethnic disparities in food insecurity exist among parents of school-age children. Approximately four in ten families with parents who are Hispanic/Latinx (39.1 percent) and parents who are Black (40.8 percent) reported food insecurity in the prior 30 days, almost triple the rate of families with white parents (15.1 percent).
- Coinciding with high rates of food insecurity, more than three times as many Hispanic/Latinx parents (36.9 percent) and about three times as many Black parents (29.6 percent) reported being worried about having enough to eat in the next month as white parents (9.6 percent).
- Over one in three families with school-age children currently enrolled in school (34.6 percent) reported that one or more of their children were receiving some type of school meal or meal replacement (such as grab-and-go or home delivery) when not attending school fully in person, while nearly two in three families (64 percent) reported that their children were not receiving any school-based meals. These data suggest that a significant portion of vulnerable children may not be benefiting from school-based nutrition resources amid the shifting mix of virtual and hybrid instruction.
- Approximately one in three parents of school-age children (34.4 percent) reported being aware of the P-EBT program. Among those aware of the program, 68 percent of all parents, 70.1 percent of Black parents, and 71.7 percent of Hispanic/Latinx parents reported receiving P-EBT.
- Charitable food continues to be an important resource during the pandemic, particularly for economically vulnerable households. Nearly one in seven families with school-age children (13.4 percent) reported accessing charitable food in the previous 30 days. Rates were higher for families who had lost work or income during the pandemic (20.3 percent) and for families with Black parents (24.2 percent) or Hispanic/Latinx parents (24.9 percent).