Food Insecurity Rates Drop for Low-Income Children in USDA's Summer Food Demonstration Program, Study Finds

Percent of Eligible Children Reached Exceeds Percent Fed by Traditional Summer Feeding Programs

Dec 18, 2012, 19:15 ET from Abt Associates

BETHESDA, Md., Dec. 18, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- A two-year summer food benefit demonstration program, initiated by USDA's Food and Nutrition Service in 2011, showed a 20% decrease in very low food insecurity rates among children in participating low-income households in its first year, according to a recently released study conducted by Abt Associates in partnership with Mathematica Policy Institute.

"Our study indicates that the Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer for Children (SEBTC) program shows promise in being able to increase food security among children with low food security, which means the quality or variety of their diet is reduced, or with very low food security in which their food intake is reduced or their eating pattern is disrupted," said Ann Collins principal associate at Abt Associates and director of the evaluation.

The study measured the impact of the $60 per child per month food benefit provided to nearly 6300 households between June and August 2011 at sites in five states: Texas, Missouri, Connecticut, Michigan and Oregon.  Households were eligible for the special benefit if they lived in participating school districts and had children in grades pre-kindergarten through 12, who were certified for free or reduced-price school meals. The benefits were issued via electronic benefit transfer cards supplied through their participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program.

Collins said that on average, participating households redeemed between 71 and 99 percent of their issued benefits, depending on the site. The benefits issued totaled over $1.6 million during the 2011 summer. Across all sites, 57 percent of households used all of their benefits in at least one month, and 35 percent spent all of their benefits for the summer.  The average amount redeemed per household ranged from $168 in Texas to $349 in Oregon.

"The first year of this demonstration showed that more eligible children could be reached and fed through the transfer of electronic benefits than through traditional summer feeding programs," Collins said.

The 2012 summer demonstration involved 14 sites, including those that participated in the 2011 summer demonstration as well as new sites in Delaware, Nevada and Washington and the Cherokee and Chickasaw Nations.  Results from 2012 are currently being analyzed, and the report on the impact of the expanded SEBTC demonstration is expected to be released in the summer of 2013.  Findings from the study will be reported to the U.S. Congress, which appropriated the funds to initiate the demonstrations.

About Abt Associates

Abt Associates is a mission-driven, global leader in research and program implementation in the fields of health, social and environmental policy, and international development. Known for its rigorous approach to solving complex challenges, Abt Associates was ranked as one of the top 20 global research firms in 2012 and also named one of the top 40 international development innovators.  The company has multiple offices in the U.S. and program offices in nearly 70 countries.

SOURCE Abt Associates