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USDA Announces Expansion of Nutrition Assistance for Foster Children

Press Release
Release No.
USDA 0048.11
Contact: FNS Press Team

WASHINGTON, DC, February 3, 2011 – USDA today announced that children placed into the foster care system by a state or court are categorically eligible to receive free meals in all USDA child nutrition programs. The expansion of categorical eligibility to foster children is a component of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 which President Obama signed into law Dec. 13, 2010.

"Ensuring all children receive nutritious meals at school and through other child nutrition programs is a top priority for the Obama administration and a key step toward winning a healthy future for the next generation of Americans, " said Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Kevin Concannon. "Categorical eligibility is a vital tool to simplify and expedite enrolling eligible children in school meal programs."

HHS' Administration for Children and Families' (ACF), which partnered with USDA in today's announcement, administers grants for foster care, runs the federal Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) and oversees state child welfare agencies. ACF stressed the importance of helping foster children and families have better access to school lunches.

"Ensuring foster children have access to healthy, balanced and nutritious meals without the burden of unnecessary eligibility paperwork shows our commitment in providing the best quality of life for many deserving children and their families," said David A. Hansell, HHS acting assistant secretary for children and families.

According to the most current AFCARS report, there were approximately 423,773 children in the U. S. in foster care on September 30, 2009. This new provision will help reduce administrative burdens on states, schools and those foster care families by certifying eligible foster children for free meals in the National School Lunch and other Child Nutrition Programs without the need for an application. The National School Lunch Program serves nearly 32 million children nutritious meals each school day and is a critical component of the national nutrition safety net that safeguards children against hunger.

"This is just one of many critical provisions in the recently passed Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act that provide kids greater access to healthy food and a more healthful lifestyle," said Concannon. "We look forward to working with our schools and our other essential partners across the country as we continue to implement this important Act."

Improving child nutrition is the focal point of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act signed by President Obama in December 2010. The legislation authorizes USDA'S child nutrition programs, including the National School Lunch, School Breakfast, Summer Food Service Program, and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children. The Act allows 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, and help a new generation win the future by having healthier lives. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act is the legislative centerpiece of First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! Initiative.

USDA's Food and Nutrition Service oversees the administration of 15 nutrition assistance programs, including the child nutrition programs. For implementation guidance relating to the Categorical Eligibility of Foster Children provision visit

Page updated: March 07, 2023