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special nutrition programs

Turning the Tide on Early Childhood Obesity

Here at USDA, we’re on a mission to help all of our nation’s children have the best possible chance at a healthy life.  So, we’re very encouraged by some recent news from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):  the rate of obesity among low-income pre-school children appears to be declining for the first time in decades.

The declining rates show that our collective efforts are helping to gain ground on childhood obesity, particularly among some of the more vulnerable populations in our country.  Low-income children are often at a disadvantage when it comes to getting the food they need to grow up healthy, which is why USDA’s nutrition programs and resources are so vital.

Serving Summer Meals Requires Hard Work and a Big Heart

As a public affairs specialist, promoting and publishing information about federal nutrition assistance programs to partners, media and the public is a key part of the job. But I don’t often get to see the real day-to-day operation of these programs. I have attended summer program kick-off events and visited other program sites for special events. But, I recently got another perspective. I accepted an offer from our regional Special Nutrition Programs branch to participate in a Summer Food Service Program review.

This cross-training experience provided a first-hand look at how the program works from the inside. I learned how our regional staff and state partners monitor sponsors and sites to make sure they are in compliance with rules and regulations to ensure program integrity and healthy summer meals for kids. Regional Food and Nutrition Service staff is responsible for program oversight and must conduct reviews of new private, non-profit sponsors and sites, often alongside the state agency. At last count, there were 17 of these new sponsors approved in Texas, with 61 new sites.

Connecting Healthcare and Nutrition through the Summer Food Service Program

"Two is better than one."  Holding true to this timeless adage, the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is teaming up with the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to expand the reach of the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP).  FNS strives to increase food security and reduce hunger by providing children and low-income people access to food, while HRSA is the primary Federal agency for improving access to health care services for people who are uninsured, isolated, or medically vulnerable.  There is an intrinsic mission overlap between FNS and HRSA given that their services target similar populations, and they have found a way to collaborate by rallying around SFSP.