USDA Announces Demonstration Project in Arkansas to Improve Child Nutrition During Summer Break
Innovative Programs to Deliver Benefits to Children in Need
WASHINGTON, May 11, 2010 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that USDA chose Arkansas to conduct a statewide, multi-year demonstration project to test innovative approaches for increasing participation in the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP).
"Our efforts to combat hunger cannot end when the school bell rings on the last day of the school year, which is why these Summer Food Service Program demonstration projects will test new and innovative ways to reduce hunger and improve nutrition among children when school is not in session" said Secretary Tom Vilsack. "The Obama Administration is committed to passing a robust reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act that will fund additional projects like these to address hunger and nutrition in creative new ways, and takes major strides to increase access and improve nutrition for our nation's children."
The Extending Length of Operation Incentive Project, the new summer pilot, will provide funding to sponsors that operate SFSP meal sites for a minimum of 40 days in the summer. An additional $0.50 reimbursement will be provided for each lunch served at sites that are open for this length of time or longer. The purpose of this demonstration is to determine whether a financial incentive can encourage programs of longer duration, thereby improving access to meals for low-income children for a greater portion of the summer. USDA also selected Mississippi for a pilot to provide funding to local sponsors to plan and implement enrichment or recreational activities at SFSP meal sites.
"The Summer Food Service Program plays an absolutely critical role in preventing childhood hunger over the summer by providing nutrition benefits to children living in low-income areas. In Arkansas, more than 350,000 children eat school lunches during the school year, but less than 18,000 participate in summer meal programs. This project will help provide more Arkansas children with nutritious meals during the summer," said Senator Blanche Lincoln. "This project was funded as a result of my first legislative action as Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee and I am proud to see Arkansas's children benefit."
Nationwide, an average of 20 percent of children who received free or reduced-price meals at school also received meals in the summer. However, last year in Arkansas only about 10.5 percent of free and reduced-price eligible children received some form of nutrition assistance in the summer.
Every five years, Congress considers improvements to the Child Nutrition Act, which authorizes USDA's child nutrition programs, including the Summer Food Service Program. The Obama Administration has proposed a historic investment of an additional $10 billion over ten years, starting in 2011, that will allow for the improvement of the quality of nutrition assistance programs, increase the number of kids participating in these programs, and ensure schools have the resources they need to make program changes, including training for school food service workers, upgraded kitchen equipment, and additional funding for meal reimbursements for schools that are enhancing nutrition and quality.
The SFSP demonstration projects are being conducted under the authority and funding provided by the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2010. The Appropriations Act authorized USDA to use $85 million to develop and test alternative methods of providing access to food for low-income children in urban and rural areas during the summer months, when schools are not in regular session. Additional demonstration projects will be conducted in future years.
USDA's Food and Nutrition Service administers 15 nutrition assistance programs including the Summer Food Service Program; the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program; the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children; the Emergency Food Assistance Program; and the National School Lunch 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. Additional information about the Summer Food Service Program can be found at www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/summer/.
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