Healthy

Release No.
0665.10

Contact:
FNS Office of Communications 703-305-2281

Programs to Expand Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer

WASHINGTON, Dec. 16, 2010 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the award of a demonstration grant to Connecticut to test new ways to provide nutrition assistance and access to healthy foods to low-income children during the summer. The 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 Michigan and Texas, benefits will be delivered through the WIC EBT system. In Connecticut, Missouri and Oregon, benefits will be delivered through the SNAP EBT system.

In Connecticut, the Department of Social Services will operate a SNAP-model Summer-EBT project in collaboration with the State Department of Education and 23 School Food Authorities in Windham and New London counties. End Hunger CT! will also help execute the demonstration project.

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.

In addition to the value of the food benefits that will be provided to recipients in the demonstration areas, Connecticut will receive $195,529 for administration and operation of the SEBTC demonstration project.

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.

 

Release No.
0010.11

Contact:
Bernetta Reese

<p>Proposed Changes Will Improve the Health and Wellbeing of Children Nationwide and Help Address Childhood Obesity Crisis</p>

WASHINGTON, Jan. 13, 2011 —The U.S. Department of Agriculture today published a proposed rule to update the nutrition standards for meals served through the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs as part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, signed into law by President Barack Obama on December 13, 2010. The new proposed meal requirements will raise standards for the first time in fifteen years and will make critical changes to school meals and help improve the health and nutrition of nearly 32 million kids that participate in school meal programs every school day, an important component of First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! initiative to solve the challenge of childhood obesity within a generation.

"The United States is facing an obesity epidemic and the crisis of poor diets threatens the future of our children – and our nation," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "With many children consuming as many as half their daily calories at school, strengthening nutritional standards is an important step in the Obama administration's effort to combat childhood obesity and improve the health and wellbeing of all our kids."

The proposed changes to school meal standards, which would add more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fat-free and low-fat milk to school meals, are based on recommendations released in October 2009 by the National Academies' Institute of Medicine (IOM) and presented in their report, School Meals: Building Blocks for Healthy Children. Schools would also be required to limit the levels of saturated fat, sodium, calories, and trans fats in meals. A comparison of the proposed nutrition standards can be viewed here.

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act gives schools and communities new tools to meet the challenge of providing more nutritious food including increasing school lunch reimbursements by 6 cents per meal, and increasing technical assistance. School meal programs are a partnership between USDA, State agencies and local schools, and USDA will work with schools and communities to help improve meals so that they are consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

"Raising a healthier generation of kids will require hard work and commitment of a host of partners," said Vilsack. "We understand that these improved meal standards may present challenges for some school districts, but the new law provides important new resources, technical assistance and flexibility to help schools raise the bar for our kids."

According to government data, almost 32 percent of children 6 to 19 years of age are overweight or obese; the number of obese children in this age range has trebled in the last few decades. These children are more likely to have risk factors associated with chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and Type 2 diabetes. Updated school meal standards are a central part of the strategy developed by President Obama's Childhood Obesity Task Force to provide healthier food at schools, and in turn, work toward resolving childhood obesity.

USDA is seeking input on the proposed rule from the public through April 13, 2011. Those interested in reviewing the proposal and offering comments are encouraged to do so at www.regulations.gov, a web-based portal to make it easy for citizens to participate in the Federal rulemaking process. All comments received will be considered carefully in finalizing the rule before it is implemented.

USDA's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) oversees the administration of 15 nutrition assistance programs, including the child nutrition programs, that touch the lives of one in four Americans over the course of a year. These programs work in concert to form a national safety net against hunger. Visit www.fns.usda.gov for information about FNS and nutrition assistance programs.

Release No.
0512.11

Contact:
Contact: USDA Office of Communications (202) 720-4623

Department Takes Historic Steps to Stem Hunger, Improve Nutrition and Curb Obesity for Nation&#39;s Children

WASHINGTON, Dec. 13, 2011 — First Lady Michelle Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today highlighted the achievements of the historic Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, one year after the legislation was enacted to combat child hunger and obesity and improve the health and nutrition of the nation's children.

"The success of our nation tomorrow depends on the choices we make for our kids today. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act is vital to the health and welfare of our kids, helping them build the healthy futures they deserve," said First Lady Michelle Obama. "We've seen the connection between what our kids eat and how well they perform in school. And we know that America's success in the 21st century means having the best-prepared and best-educated workforce around. So it is critical that we work to ensure that all children have the basic nutrition they need to learn, grow, and to pursue their dreams. As we celebrate the many accomplishments of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act's first year, we also pledge to continue taking bold steps forward to advance this goal." 

"The strength of our communities, our economy, and our national security, rely on the health of our children," said Vilsack. "The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act strengthens the school nutrition environment, expands access to healthy meals, and simplifies processes so every child can receive a well-balanced school meal. And today, we celebrate those important accomplishments and look forward to those achievements which are still to come.

The Act makes many critical improvements to the child nutrition programs that serve millions of children across our country each day. It provides for improved access to nutrition assistance to make it easier for children to get nutritious meals when they are away from home. The legislation also improves the entire nutrition environment in schools and will enhance understanding of the causes and consequences of hunger and food insecurity among children The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 advances the goal of solving the problem of childhood obesity within a generation, which is at the heart of the First Lady's Let's Move! initiative.

USDA Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Kevin Concannon said, "School nutrition improvements are an investment in our children's future. By working together, USDA and its partners can make these changes happen to feed every child the nutritious food they deserve – to excel and thrive in their lives.

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 marked a great win for the nearly 32 million school children that participate in the National School Lunch and the 12 million school children that participate in the School Breakfast Programs each school day. USDA is working to implement historic reforms that will mark the most comprehensive change to food in schools in more than a generation. USDA's efforts to improve and enhance the school food environment include: updated school meals nutrition standards to increase fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy; science-based standards for all foods and beverages sold on the school campus; performance-based funding increases for schools – the first real increase in 30 years; and training and technical assistance to help schools meet improved standards. 

Key accomplishments from the Act in the first year include:

  • Nutrition Standards for School Meals: USDA proposed new meal patterns and nutrition standards that align school meals with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, analyzed over 130,000 public comments, and used them in drafting a final regulation for publication.
  • Common Sense Standards for Revenue: USDA issued new rules to ensure that all revenues from school food sales keep pace with the Federal commitment to healthy school meals and properly align with costs, providing local schools as much as $7.5 billion over 5 years to invest in healthier meals for children.
  • Nationwide Expansion of At-Risk Afterschool Meals: USDA worked closely with states to expand the availability of afterschool meals across the nation through the Child and Adult Care Food Program. USDA estimates this expansion could provide supper to an additional 140,000 kids in low-income areas.
  • Categorical Eligibility for Foster Children: USDA issued guidance and provided technical assistance to states to ensure that more than 400,000 children in foster care are certified to receive free meals in all USDA child nutrition programs.
  • Strengthening Direct Certification: USDA provided guidance, technical assistance and grant funding to states to improve their direct certification systems to help more children already receiving benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR).
  • Implementing Community Eligibility: USDA is working with three states – Illinois, Kentucky and Michigan – to implement a "community eligibility" approach to reimburse schools for meals without the need for paper applications.
  • Simplified Area Eligibility for Family Day Care Homes: USDA provided guidance to states to simplify the kinds of information that family day care home providers can use to qualify for participation in the Child and Adult Care Food Program.
  • Improved School Wellness Promotion: USDA provided guidance to enhance local wellness policies in schools in order to promote healthier lifestyles for children.
  • Bolster Farm to School Connections: New USDA policy ensures that children have access to fresh produce and other agricultural products and give a much-needed boost to local farmers and agricultural producers.

Key accomplishments from the Act expected in the coming year and beyond:

  • Nutrition Standards for School Meals:
  •  USDA anticipates finalizing the actual standards to align school meals with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans in early 2012.

  • Nutrition Standards for All Foods Sold in School: USDA plans to propose new standards for foods sold in school other than reimbursable meals, such as those in school stores, a la carte lines, and vending machines.
  • Implementation of Performance-Based Reimbursement: The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act included the first real reimbursement rate increase for school meals in roughly 30 years. These funds are tied to performance in meeting the updated nutrition standards for school meals. USDA plans to begin issuing these funds in 2012.
  • Implementing Direct Certification using Medicaid Data: USDA will select states to participate in a demonstration project to test the use of Medicaid data for connecting eligible children with free school meals.
  • Nutrition Standards for the Child and Adult Care Food Program: USDA will propose updated standards for child and adult care settings, as well as other early learning settings that participate in CACFP, to better align the meals served with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
  • Implementing Community Eligibility: USDA plans to continue evaluating the current States participating in community eligibility and expanding to others.

USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. To file a complaint of discrimination, write to USDA, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, S.W., Stop 9410, Washington, DC 20250-9410, or call toll-free at (866) 632-9992 (English) or (800) 877-8339 (TDD)or (866) 377-8642 (English Federal-relay) or (800) 845-6136 (Spanish Federal-relay).