Basic Needs in America's Schools

K12 Basic Needs
Children are more likely to learn and thrive when their basic needs are met. Inconsistent access to essential necessities, such as safe and secure housing, food, mental and physical healthcare, childcare, technology, or transportation, can have far-reaching consequences for student success. Research suggests that basic needs insecurity negatively impacts school attendance, social emotional well-being, health, and overall academic achievement.
In 2022, over one in six households with children (17.3 percent) experienced food insecurity, representing an increase from 12.5 percent in 2021.The Biden-Harris Administration has taken steps to address food insecurity with the National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health, which includes increasing food security among school children by advancing a pathway for free healthy meals for all, expanding the Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) to more children, and broadening SNAP eligibility.
Housing insecurity among families with children, which includes housing instability and homelessness, is also a growing concern. The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, reauthorized in 2015, guarantees educational rights and supports for students experiencing homelessness (including those “doubling up” in others’ homes). The National Center for Homeless Education provides guidance, support, and resources to educators and communities working with homeless students.

Featured Resources

National School Lunch Program: The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) is a federally assisted meal program operating in public and nonprofit private schools and residential child care institutions. It provides nutritionally balanced, low-cost or no-cost lunches to children each school day. The program was established under the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act, signed into law by President Harry Truman in 1946.

Summer EBT: As part of our collaborative efforts to enhance USDA's summer nutrition programs, the Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer Program for Children (Summer EBT) will officially launch in summer 2024. Summer EBT provides grocery-buying benefits to low-income families with school-aged children when schools are closed for the summer. More than 30 million children across America could benefit from Summer EBT.

Advancing Equity in Homeless Education: Serving Students in Historically Underserved Populations: This brief provides an overview of the 7 historically underserved populations named in the Department of Education’s April 2021 Dear Colleague Letter. The brief includes publicly available data on the 7 historically underserved populations and a list of resources and organizations that educators can consult for more information. The information in this brief is valuable for building a foundation for equity-focused collaboration, planning, and service provision in the use of American Rescue Plan-Homeless Children and Youth (ARP-HCY) funds and Education of Homeless Children and Youth (EHCY) funds.

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