Summer Nutrition Benefits Expanded for Children in Flint

Michigan SEBTC Card(Washington) — The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced a measure to expand the access to summer EBT benefits to children living in Flint. Now, an additional 23,000 children who may have been affected by the water crisis will be eligible to receive a $30 benefit package each month this summer. These students will also receive information on nutritious foods that may help mitigate lead absorption.  This brings the total number of children who could benefit to about 39,000. For more information about USDA’s support for those affected by the Flint lead crisis, please visit the USDA’s Flint Fact Sheet.

Based on the positive results of Summer EBT identified in the evaluations, President Obama’s 2017 budget seeks to ensure vulnerable children across the country have adequate access to nutritious food during the summer by expanding access to Summer EBT. The proposed plan would invest $12.2 billion over 10 years to make Summer EBT a permanent program and begin a phased-in nationwide expansion.

During the school year, nearly 22 million children receive nutritious free and reduced price school meals through USDA’s National School Lunch Program (NSLP). However, less than a fifth of these children receive meals through USDA’s summer meals programs when school is out of session. As a result, low-income children are at higher risk of food insecurity and poor nutrition during the summer. The Summer EBT demonstration project is meant to help bridge that gap and is an important component of FNS’s larger body of work aimed at ensuring children have access to healthy food in the summer.

Over the past seven years, USDA has enhanced federal nutrition programs, providing a critical safety net for millions of American children and families. Some examples include, updated nutrition standards for school nutrition, the updated WIC package to include whole grains, low-fat dairy, fruits and vegetables, expanding the scope of the SNAP nutrition education program, and supporting an unprecedented growth in the number of farmers markets that accept SNAP and WIC benefits. By expanding access to nutritious foods and increasing awareness about the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, USDA programs have made a real difference in the lives of many, promising a brighter, healthier future for our nation.

In total, FNS administers 15 nutrition assistance programs that comprise America’s nutrition safety net. They include NSLP, School Breakfast Program, WIC, SNAP, and more.

Results of a USDA report posted May 11, 2016 on the Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer for Children (Summer EBT) demonstration project confirm a significant reduction in food insecurity among participating families.   The project tested two benefit levels – $30 and $60 per month per child – both of which were found to reduce the most severe form of food insecurity and led to positive nutritional outcomes.

“The findings of the evaluation are conclusive:  Summer EBT reduces food insecurity,” said Kevin Concannon, Under Secretary of USDA’s Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services.  “It is another powerful tool in our portfolio, and in conjunction with other ongoing efforts such as the Community Eligibility Provision and summer meal programs, it enables us to fight child hunger from multiple angles.”

The report analyzes pooled data from the 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014 evaluations of the Summer EBT demonstration project, which provides parents or guardians of children eligible for free and reduced-price meals with a monthly benefit via a debit-type card which can be redeemed for food purchases throughout summer when children do not have access to school meals.   The evaluations assessed impact on food security based on different levels of monthly summer benefits – $60, $30, and $0 – and different distribution models: one where benefits are allocated via specific food items similar to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program and another where a specific monetary amount is available for food purchases similar to the system that delivers Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.

USDA found that providing low-income children a $30 or $60 per month per child benefit reduced the most severe type of food insecurity, defined by disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake, among children by one-third during the summer.  A $60 per month per child benefit also cut less severe food insecurity – characterized by a decrease in quality, variety, and/or desirability of diet – by 10 percent.

Participating in Summer EBT also led to positive changes in nutrition for participating children.  Both monthly benefit levels led to positive changes in children’s nutritional outcomes compared to receiving no benefits; but, children in households receiving the $60 benefit ate slightly more nutritious foods than children in the $30 group. Though there were positive impacts on nutrition for children in both distribution models, households that received a WIC-model food package generally ate more healthfully than households that received a SNAP-model benefit. Additional breakdown of the findings for each year is available in the annual evaluation reports posted on the Food and Nutrition Service’s website.

The Summer EBT demonstration project was funded by Congress in 2010 and has been supported through subsequent appropriations in Fiscal Years 2015 and 2016.  States were selected for participation in Summer EBT using a competitive Request for Applications.  USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) recently announced the grantees for summer 2016, which include Cherokee Nation, Chickasaw Nation, Connecticut, Delaware, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, and Oregon. All eight grantees have existing Summer EBT projects.  Six grantees proposed to expand their programs in rural areas (Cherokee, Chickasaw, Delaware, Missouri, Nevada, and Oregon), building on the significant rural and tribal expansion that began in 2015. Two grantees (Michigan and Missouri) will expand in areas of extreme need which include Detroit and Flint, Mi., and Ferguson, Mo.

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