Sept. 15—The US Department of Agriculture announced results of two pilot programs in Arkansas and Mississippi designed to increase participation in summer meals programs among low-income children. The results showed that the pilot program increased the average participation rate by 35% in Arkansas and by 19% in Mississippi.
The study was done to assess the impact of two 2010 Enhanced Summer Food Service Program demonstrations designed to prevent food insecurity and hunger among children during the summer months when school is out, according to the USDA. The Arkansas demonstration offered per-lunch incentives to encourage SFSP providers or sponsors to operate for a greater portion of the summer. The Mississippi demonstration offered new recreational or educational activities at SFSP feeding sites to foster higher levels of participation. The USDA admits that the two pilots and their incentives were but one factor that may have influenced the increase in participation results.
The USDA is running additional projects this year, including testing home delivery of meals and a backpack food program for kids when the traditional SFSP is not operating, as well as household-based summer feeding approaches using the EBT infrastructure of SNAP and WIC.
“Hunger doesn’t take a summer vacation, and the Summer Food Service Program helps to ensure that disadvantaged children receive the wholesome, nutritious meals they need when school is out,” Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Kevin Concannon said in a press release. “Through these demonstration projects, we hope to find innovative ways to increase access to and participation in this valuable program, to help fill the summer nutrition gap.”