New York Parents’ Perspectives of School Meals and Pandemic EBT
December 7, 2020
The global coronavirus has brought uncertainty and anxiety into people’s lives, workplaces, and neighborhoods, particularly for those who work to improve the health of our communities.
During this difficult time, many organizations across New York State are working tirelessly to keep people safe, especially the most vulnerable. In response, NYHealth is supporting statewide and local efforts to address emerging health care and public health needs in the wake of the pandemic. In 2020, NYHealth awarded the Teachers College, Columbia University’s Laurie M. Tisch Center for Food, Education & Policy a grant to better understand New York City’s most vulnerable families’ experiences with school meals and pandemic electronic food benefits (P-EBT).
Under this grant, the Tisch Center partnered with the Food Ed Coalition to survey New York City families with school children on their awareness and use of emergency school meals and food services. Parents and family members were recruited to participate in Zoom focus groups to learn about their experiences with school meals and P-EBT, including how the program impacts food security and healthful eating. The study generated data on if/what parents know about P-EBT; their participation rates; whether participants found the meals culturally relevant, healthy, and of a suitable variety; and whether the programs increased their families’ food security. Findings were used to inform the New York City Office of Food and Nutrition Services and helped guide future policy design and implementation for both emergency school meals and summer food access.