Publications Education Health SPI *Working Paper

It shouldn’t take a pandemic to increase school meal access for low-income students: A two-step floating catchment area analysis of school meal access during COVID-19

COVID-19 created an additional barrier for students who benefit from free school meals. While some schools attempted to provide alternative meal access points, many students lack adequate transportation. Thus, physical proximity to meal access points is particularly important during the pandemic. Taking into account both the “supply” and the “demand” for free meals, we employed a two-step floating catchment area analysis to analyze meal accessibility in St. Louis, MO. Overall, while meal access during the spring 2020 semester was substantially lower than the spring 2019 semester, meal access during the 2020 summer was substantially higher than the 2019 summer. Moreover, increased access was most prevalent in low-income areas and areas with a higher proportion of African Americans.


Jabbari, Jason; Chun, Yung; Nandan, Pranav; McDermott, Laura; Frank, Tyler; Ferris, Dan; Moreland-Russell, Sarah; and Roll, Stephen, “It Shouldn’t take a Pandemic to increase School Meal Access for Low-Income Students: A Two-Step Floating Catchment Area Analysis of School Meal Access during COVID-19” (2020). Social Policy Institute Research. 36.