This brief shares findings from an expansion of the 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 food source through home delivery to children in rural areas who lack access to Summer Food Service Program sites. The expansion, titled MTYx21, was authorized in May 2021 to reach additional communities with low food access in Texas, Alaska, and New Mexico. However, delays in moving forward with this expansion led to a delivery of the intervention that was substantially different than originally intended.
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 MTYx21. We found the following:
- Because of the considerable delays in program implementation, only 23 districts could participate, though several more were deemed eligible. Households ultimately received an average of three boxes per child that arrived after the 2021–22 school year had started, instead of the intended 11 boxes per child over the summer of 2021.
- Food vendors could not adequately plan for this program given the delays in finalizing a contract and had difficulties efficiently using their inventory because of the delayed timeline.
- School district personnel faced challenges registering families because of delayed program enrollment, as communication with families is limited during the summer months. Given the rural nature of these districts, staff went to extreme lengths to reach households. They expressed frustration at the delays caused by USDA.
- Participants also expressed frustration that the boxes came much later than anticipated. But they did find the boxes unexpectedly helpful, as more than half of households (57 percent) reported their child missed school because of COVID-19-related incidents in the first month or two of the school year and thus lacked access to school meals on those days