Hooke, B. (2022). Abundant Scarcity: How Liberal Democratic Stratification Systems and the Cares Act impacted National School Lunch Program Distribution. Unc Charlotte Electronic Theses And Dissertations.
The Covid- 19 Pandemic and subsequent economic disruption spurred the federal government to increase the availability of the National School Lunch Program to all eligible students in the United States. Despite the expansion of the National School Lunch Program many low-income students and families were still struggling to secure a stable food supply. While previous research has not studied the National School Lunch program specifically, studies of adjacent welfare programs suggest that the United States devolved liberal democratic stratification system prevents welfare expansion from meeting the true needs of at-risk populations. Previous research has relied on qualitative analysis and interviews with recipients in specific locations limiting research to more micro studies. In this study I use school lunch data provided by six state departments of education to analyze if the funding from the Cares Act for national school lunch program expansion resulted in a higher volume of students consuming school lunches. I analyzed school lunch data from 2018- 2021 to map how trends in lunches consumed changed in three distinct phases of the pandemic. In line with previous qualitative research on welfare expansion during the Covid- 19 pandemic, this quantitative study finds that the Cares Act expansion of the national school lunch program was not enough to yield larger numbers of students to consume school lunches. My findings show that the federal government’s ideological tendency to devolve responsibility of distribution to the states prevented the creation of a coherent plan to distribute food directly to the people that needed it most.