USDA Sets Goal to Serve 166 Million Gov’t Subsidized Meals to Kids This Summer

August 7, 2013 - 10:45 AM
Food Stamps

U.S. Department of Agriculture SNAP program (food stamp) card. (AP photo)

(CNSNews.com) – With a record 101 million Americans receiving food aid from the federal government, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) wants more kids to be on the dole for food during the summer months.

“As part of its ongoing commitment to improving access to healthy food for low income children, USDA has set a goal of serving 5 million more meals to eligible children this summer,” the agency said on Aug. 1.

The agency’s goal amounts to serving 166 million meals through its Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), which already gives subsidies to 3.5 million children a day during breaks from school.

“The SFSP enriches the lives of millions of low-income children in communities across the U.S.,” the USDA said. “However, it reaches far fewer children than the school programs.”

Last year, the agency provided 161 million meals, bringing the goal to 166 million government-subsidized meals served.

Kids with EBT cards

One of the ways the government will achieve this aim is by giving children subsidies on EBT cards. The USDA released an evaluation report on testing “new methods” to provide food to children in the summer, specifically through the Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer for Children (SEBTC) program.

“As part of its efforts to end child hunger, [the Food and Nutrition Service] FNS is studying alternative approaches to providing food assistance to children in the summer months,” the USDA said.

Last summer, 66,772 children received subsidies via an EBT card from the program, which was run in eight states and two Indian tribes. Eligible households received up to $60 per month, per child.

In all, the government spent $13.2 million on the SEBTC program alone in 2012.

The stated goal of the summer EBT program is to “improve children’s food security.”

“Food security is defined as access by all members of the household at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life,” the USDA said.

“Food-insecure households” are described as “those with low or very low food security among adults or children or both.”

“Food secure households are those in which both adults and children are food secure,” the USDA explained.

The agency even has different degrees for food insecurity: low food security and “very low food security.”

“Food insecure households are those in which the adults or children or both have limited access to food resulting in: a) reduced quality or variety of diet (low food security), or b) reduced food intake or disrupted eating patterns (very low food security - VLFS).”

The agency claims there were nearly 8.6 million children living in households with “food-insecure children,” in 2011, and 0.8 million children lived in households with “very low food security.”

‘Redoubling efforts’

As CNSNews.com previously reported, 101 million Americans receive some sort of food assistance from the federal government at a cost of $114 billion.

Millions of kids receive benefits already, including 32 million students enrolled in the National School Lunch program; 3.3 million children provided snacks at day care centers; and 2.3 million children received aid in July 2011 during summer vacation.

The USDA said it fed “approximately 3.5 million children on a typical summer day,” providing 161 million meals in 2012.

To reach the goal of 166 million meals, the agency is “redoubling” their efforts.

“In order to ensure that no child goes hungry this summer, USDA and its partners are redoubling their efforts to reach more eligible low-income children,” the USDA said when first announcing the goal in June.

The USDA launched an intensive campaign this summer to get more children enrolled in its food programs, issuing a national “call to action” and deploying its “Strike Force,” which provides assistance to rural communities.

Congress is also on board with the plan, providing $85 million to the USDA to “improve access to food for low-income children in the summer months when school is not in regular session.”