USDA Awards Grant to Improve Access to Healthy Foods for Missouri Children

Release No.
0664.10

Contact:
David Von Behren 303-844-0314

Programs to Expand Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer

WASHINGTON, Dec. 16, 2010 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the award of a demonstration grant to Missouri to test new ways to provide nutrition assistance and access to healthy foods to low-income children during the summer. The $230,650 Missouri grant is part of the Obama Administration's efforts to use improved approaches to increase access to nutritious meals and snacks during gap periods. By working with state agencies, the pilot projects aim to reduce the level of food insecurity among children in the summer months.

"This is a landmark opportunity to use our ingenuity to combat childhood hunger and reach kids during the summer months when we know it is challenging to receive the nutrition they need," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "The lessons we learn from these demonstrations – to strengthen and complement existing programs – will help shape the nutrition assistance safety net for the future, and have the potential to be a welcome additional resource for families worried about feeding their children."

The awards announced today – the Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer for Children (SEBTC) Demonstrations – will use the electronic benefit infrastructure of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) to give low-income families with school-age children more food resources to use at the store during the summer. Families will receive a card, similar to a debit card, which they can use in stores to buy food. The food benefit will be valued at $60 per child per month during the summertime. In Missouri benefits will be delivered through the SNAP EBT system.

The Missouri project will be used to operate a SNAP-model Summer-EBT project in collaboration with the Department of Education, the Local Investment Commission (LINC), and the Kansas City, Hickman Mills and Center School Food Authorities. Under the project, families of children in the demonstration will be eligible to receive a benefit of approximately $60 per child, per month when school is out during summer 2011. In total, families of children in the demonstration area will receive approximately $375,000 to $450,000 in food benefits.

In the near-term, the demonstration project will provide thousands of low-income children in the demonstration communities with substantial new household food benefits during the summer. In the longer term it will provide critical knowledge about the impact of cutting-edge nutrition interventions on achieving real improvement in food security among our children during the summer months.

USDA previously funded two statewide, multi-year projects in Arkansas and Mississippi to test innovative approaches to increase participation in the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) by creating incentives for these programs to operate longer during the summer and funding enrichment activities that encourage increased participation. Two more SFSP enhancement demonstrations are planned for next summer. The SFSP, which serves over 2 million children every summer, is an important component of the nutrition safety net which is complemented by these demonstration projects. The projects will also provide USDA with critical knowledge about the impact of cutting-edge nutrition interventions on achieving real progress in the fight against hunger among our children during the summer months.

An independent evaluation will be completed for each of the SEBTC demonstrations. The evaluation will determine their effectiveness, particularly at improving food security among children during the summer. Abt Associates will partner with Mathematica and Imadgen to conduct the evaluation.

Improving child nutrition is also a focal point of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act that recently passed Congress and was signed by President Obama on December 13, 2010. This legislation authorizes USDA'S child nutrition programs, including Summer Food Service Program and the National School Lunch Program, which serves nearly 32 million children each day. It will allow USDA, for the first time in over 30 years, the chance to make real reforms to the school lunch and breakfast programs by improving the critical nutrition and hunger safety net for millions of children. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act is the legislative centerpiece of First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! Initiative. To learn more, visit www.LetsMove.gov.

USDA's Food and Nutrition Service administers 15 nutrition assistance programs including the Summer Food Service Program; the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program; the National School Lunch Program; the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children; and the Emergency Food Assistance Program. Together these programs make up the federal nutrition safety net. USDA administers these programs in partnership with state and local agencies and works with faith and community-based organizations to ensure that nutrition assistance is available to those in need. Additional information about the programs can be found at www.fns.usda.gov. Additional information about the demonstrations and evaluation can be found at www.fns.usda.gov/ora.