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USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service provides disaster relief, innovation and flexibility through federal nutrition assistance programs

Release No.
FNS 0016.17

Contact:
FNS Office of the Chief Communications Officer (703) 305-2281

WASHINGTON, Dec. 21, 2017 - Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services (FNCS) Brandon Lipps today highlighted the vital work Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) has done this year to provide food assistance to the millions of Americans impacted by unprecedented hurricanes and wildfires, as well as the numerous actions FNCS has taken to promote self-sufficiency, integrity, and customer service within federal nutrition programs.

“Secretary Perdue charged the entire department to ‘do right and feed everyone,’ and FNCS has been diligently working to advance that goal,” Lipps said, “by ensuring all Americans are fed in times of need while seeking ways to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the Department’s nutrition assistance programs.”

Key accomplishments this year include:

Expanding flexibility in delivering wholesome, nutritious, tasty school meals

In response to customer feedback and to reduce administrative burden, Secretary Perdue issued a proclamation in May committing to ease certain requirements for school meals to help program operators offer nutritious and appealing meals to the more than 30 million children they serve each school day. FNS fulfilled that commitment by publishing a regulation that increases flexibility for schools that continue to face challenges in meeting specific requirements related to whole grains, sodium, and flavored milk. “The dedicated school nutrition professionals around the nation know the children in their care and understand the needs of their school and community,” Lipps said. “They spoke and we listened, and we will continue listening to our customers: the American people. Customer service is a top priority for USDA.”

Responding to an unprecedented disaster season with targeted nutrition assistance

With massive hurricanes devastating much of the South and the Caribbean territories, wildfires ravaging the West, and storms causing significant damage in the Northeast, millions of Americans faced natural disaster-related dislocation and disruption over the last several months.  Working closely with other state and federal authorities including FEMA, FNS made sure that all those facing these challenges in the wake of disaster were able to get the food they need.

  • FNS provided hundreds of thousands of pounds of nutritious, American grown and produced USDA Foods to states and territories for voluntary organizations to serve hot meals at mass feeding sites and shelters. In some areas, boxes of USDA Foods were also distributed for households to take home, benefitting more than 292,000 households in Puerto Rico alone.
  • FNS’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) responded by providing Disaster-SNAP benefits to eligible low income, disaster-affected households and replacing and supplementing benefits for those already participating in SNAP, increasing the ability for those most in need to buy food for their families.
  • FNS simplified operations for Child Nutrition Programs in Texas, Florida, Georgia, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, benefitting more than 4.5 million children, and allowed schools in the hardest-hit areas to temporarily serve children meals for free. 

Supporting work and self-sufficiency among SNAP participants

FNS took many important steps in 2017 to support SNAP participants in transitioning to self-sufficiency by promoting the core American values of work and responsibility. “SNAP was created to provide people with the help they need to feed themselves and their families, but it was not intended to be a permanent lifestyle,” said Secretary Perdue. “We want to provide the nutrition people need, but we also want to help them transition from government programs, back to work, and into lives of independence.”

  • The SNAP to Skills Project provided states with tailored tools and resources to develop employer-driven employment and training programs that help SNAP participants find and keep good jobs.
  • FNS completed the first ever Employment and Training (E&T) Learning Academy to develop leaders in the field of SNAP E&T and improve the use of E&T as a complement to other work services, increasing capacity for supporting people as they move to self-sufficiency.
  • Paving a path for future initiatives, Lipps sent a letter to all SNAP commissioners explaining the Department’s priorities – self-sufficiency, integrity, and customer service – and asking for their thoughts on options to advance these goals under existing law.  “We believe states are laboratories of innovation and seek to learn from you what works and what does not,” Lipps said in his letter. “I look forward to working with you as we strive to better serve our participants and increase our accountability to the American taxpayer.”

Listening to customers and expanding transparency in the Dietary Guidelines process

FNCS’ Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP) kicked off the process of developing the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) in late November by holding a new series of listening sessions with a diverse group of interested stakeholders.  This important step in the development process underlined CNPP’s commitment to increased transparency and accountability. Full transcripts and written comments from the sessions will be made publically available later this month on CNPP’s website and through DietaryGuidelines.gov.

USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service administers 15 nutrition assistance programs that include the National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), and the Summer Food Service Program. Together, these programs comprise America's nutrition safety net. For more information, visit www.fns.usda.gov.

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