WASHINGTON, Dec.16, 2010 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the award of demonstration grant to Texas 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 and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children 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.
In Texas, the project will use the WIC Electronic Benefit Transfer to assist children from El Paso's Ysleta Independent School District with each eligible child receiving up to $60 in benefits per month which is comparable to the monthly value of school lunches. The families of approximately2,500 children certified to receive free or reduced-price school meals within the school district will receive a benefit.
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, Texas will receive $607,370 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.
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.