新冠肺炎疫情在美國蔓延之際，造成許多學校停校停課，除學習受影響，供餐也成為一大問題，尤其是弱勢族群及中低收入家庭，供餐中斷會導致弱勢學童身體虛弱，免疫力也跟著降低，使他們成為可能感染傳染性疾病的高危險群；為因應此嚴峻的挑戰，美國聯邦政府訂定了相關的緊急法案， 美國總統也簽署了相關的緊急法案，包括：3月18日的新冠病毒家庭優先援助法 (The Families First Coronavirus Response Act) 和3月27日的新冠病毒災難救濟和緊急經濟援助法案 (the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act)。當與新冠肺炎搏鬥之際，確保兒童營養需求為重要事項之一，Dr. Bleich 和其團隊建議應及時評估這些措施的成效，感謝政治人物能屏除各黨分歧的政治立場，齊心讓這些法案迅速過關，此緊急危機也改進了我們對提供兒童充足營養需求的應變能力。
As Covid-19 spreads throughout the United States, schools and child care facilities are balancing their role of helping to prevent disease transmission with ensuring access to food for children who rely on the federal nutrition safety net. Together, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, and Child and Adult Care Food Program serve nearly 35 million children daily, delivering vital nutrition and financial assistance to families in need.1 With such programs interrupted, an essential element of the Covid-19 response will be feeding children from low-income families.
Meals and snacks from schools or child care centers fulfill up to two thirds of children’s daily nutritional needs and are generally healthier than those brought from home. The short-term health effects of missed meals include fatigue and reduced immune response, which increase the risk of contracting communicable diseases. Even brief periods of food insecurity can cause long-term developmental, psychological, physical, and emotional harms. Children from low-income households, who are already at higher risk for poorer health and academic performance than children from high-income households, may be further disadvantaged by nutrition shortfalls.
Lost access to school meals also highlights the fragile financial health of families in the federal nutrition safety net. When schools and child care centers close, children miss out on food services worth at least $30 per week.2 The true cost to families of feeding children is probably higher, because this figure doesn’t account for time spent purchasing or preparing foods or the higher price of retail foods as compared with schools’ bulk-purchasing rates. Increased food-related financial burdens can harm all household members by forcing families to ration food or forgo other critical needs, such as medication, utilities, and rent.
Author：Caroline G. Dunn, Erica Kenney, Sheila E. Fleischhacker, et al.