USDA is responsible for providing a safety net for millions of Americans who are food-insecure and for developing and promoting dietary guidance based on scientific evidence. USDA works to increase food security and reduce hunger by providing children and low-income people access to food, a healthful diet and nutrition education in a way that supports American agriculture and inspires public confidence. USDA provides critical nutrition assistance through Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) programs that include child nutrition programs, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and emergency food assistance among many other programs. The Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP) is responsible for developing and promoting dietary guidance that links the best evidence-based scientific research to the nutrition needs of Americans.
Child Nutrition Programs
Child Nutrition Programs administered by FNS provide healthy food to children through programs that include the National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, Child and Adult Care Food Program, Summer Food Service Program and the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program.
During summer months, USDA works with community sponsors to serve millions of meals to low-income children through the Summer Food Service Program. This program helps fight hunger and obesity by reimbursing organizations such as schools, child care centers, and after-school programs for providing healthy meals to children.
The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, commonly known as WIC, promotes healthy birth outcomes and early child development by providing food packages, health screenings and referrals, breastfeeding promotion and support, and nutrition education for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding and postpartum women, infants, and children up to five years of age who are found to be at nutritional risk.
The WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) provides fresh, unprepared, locally grown fruits and vegetables to WIC participants. The Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) provides vouchers for eligible low-income seniors to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables at farmers markets and roadside stands, as well as through community supported agriculture programs.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) (formerly known as the Food Stamp Program) serves as the primary source of nutrition assistance for millions of low-income people monthly. It increases food purchasing power for eligible households with benefits that can be used to buy food at authorized retail grocery stores and farmers markets across the country.
State agencies operate SNAP according to national eligibility and benefit standards set by Federal law and regulations, implement strategies to promote healthy choices and prevent obesity among participants, provide employment and training services to help participants move to self-sufficiency, and are responsible for ensuring integrity in certification and benefit issuance. USDA oversees over 250,000 food retailers that redeem benefits.
Additional Nutrition Programs
USDA administers many other programs to strengthen the nutrition safety net. For example, the FNS Food Distribution Programs distribute USDA-purchased food to school children and low-income families, emergency feeding programs, Indian reservations, and the elderly. USDA purchases a variety of food products in support of the National School Lunch program and other federal feeding programs. These purchases help to stabilize prices in agricultural commodity markets by balancing supply and demand.
In addition, the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, within the Office of the Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services, works to improve the health of all Americans by developing and promoting dietary guidance that links scientific research to the nutrition needs of consumers. It provides national leadership, technical expertise, and cooperation for development of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and Federal nutrition and economic initiatives.
Nutrition Resources, Publications, and Research
- Food Nutrition Information Center
- Human Nutrition Research (Agricultural Research Service)
- Nutrient Data Laboratory
- Diet Quality Nutrition (Economic Research Service)
- USDA National Nutrient Database
- Dietary Guidelines
- Healthy Eating Index
- Food Assistance and Nutrition Research Program (FANRP)
- Nutrition Assistance Research and Analysis (Food and Nutrition Service)