The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is frequently asked, by a variety of nutrition education partners, how it defines a sound impact evaluation. The principles introduced here describe the characteristics of strong impact assessments of nutrition education. They are also consistent with the Government and Performance Results Act and the Office of Management and Budget’s guidance for clear demonstration of program effects.
The national nutrition safety net consists of 15 programs that provide millions of low-income Americans access to a healthy and nutritious diet. It has been observed that many low-income individuals are both overweight and participants in one or more nutrition assistance programs. This has led some to question whether participation in the nutrition assistance programs contributes to the growing problem of overweight and obesity. This report presents the conclusions of an expert panel convened by the Food and Nutrition Service to determine if there is scientific evidence of a relationship between program participation and excess weight.
This report fulfills the request from Congress in the House Appropriations Committee Report (House Report 107-116), which accompanied the Agriculture Appropriations Act for fiscal year 2002. The conference report included the following statement: “The nutritional status of our young people is a matter of public health. The Committee expects the Department to build upon work already done with the food pyramid, and other innovative national and local efforts. Nutrition information should be carefully reviewed so that a consistent and coordinated message is disseminated. Existing opportunities to convey nutrition messages, including newsletters, static displays in cafeterias, in-school and cable television productions should be used to the maximum extent possible. The committee directs the Department to provide a report regarding the development and implementation of this effort by February 1, 2002."
This report fulfills a Congressional request for the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) to report on "a comprehensive, integrated approach to nutrition education as a complement to the various nutrition assistance programs." FNS reviewed its current nutrition education efforts, and consulted with a wide range of nutrition education experts and stakeholders.
One activity that reflects the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) commitment to nutrition promotion is the development of State nutrition networks. Since October 1995, USDA’s Food and Consumer Service (FCS) has awarded cooperative agreements to 22 States to create nutrition networks that would develop innovative, large-scale, and sustainable approaches to providing nutrition education to low-income families that participate or are eligible to participate in the Food Stamp Program (FSP). Twelve States entered into agreements with FCS in 1995. In 1996, ten more States signed agreements. These agreements fund State-level nutrition education networks of State and local government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and representatives of private industry. The purpose of the networks is to coordinate the delivery of nutrition education messages to the low-income population eligible for food stamps. In the past, some people participating in the FSP received nutrition education through individual counseling or classes. Now, FCS is promoting a new approach, designed to reach many more FSP participants and to bring about positive changes in behavior more effectively. The cooperative agreements provide States with resources to recruit network members, develop network membership, and create a nutrition education plan that is linked to social marketing technique.
The Conference on Access to Food, held in Washington, D.C., on September 18 and 19, 1995, was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Consumer Service (FCS). The conference was held to bring together food access experts to share their knowledge and help USDA build an agenda to increase access to food for low-income Americans.