Food Assistance And Nutrition Education Programs

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Marilyn Bernard, MS, RD

Knowledge of age-appropriate feeding practices and good nutrition concepts cannot be implemented unless a caregiver has access to food or to financial resources to buy food. A number or programs have been created over the years to assist families in obtaining foods, many developed by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). Table 14-1 describes USDA-directed programs for children. In addition, many state and local agencies, neighborhood health centers, and local schools and universities offer programs and services to promote the nutritional health of children.

Local food assistance programs are typically found in churches or other places of worship or are listed in the yellow pages under food pantries, food assistance, and food banks, or under social and human services. Nationwide programs such as Worldsharc. Inc. ( 1-888-742-7372) and Second Harvest (www.secondharvest. org; 1-312-263-2303) have regional programs throughout the country. Additional North American programs are listed on the Winnipeg Harvest Website (www.winnipegharvest. org/links).

Table 14-1. United States Department of Agriculture Food Assistance Programs



Eligibility Components

Food Stamp Program

Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)

National School Lunch Program and National School Breakfast Program Special Milk Program

Summer Food Service Program

Child Care Food Program

Provides food coupons or electronic benefit cards to buy food in approved stores Provides health referrals, nutrition education, and food assistance to women, infants, and children

Provides low-cost or free lunches and breakfasts to children in public and nonprofit schools and residential child care institutions

Provides milk to children in schools and child care institutions that do not participate in other federal child nutrition meal service programs Provides free, nutritious meals to low-income children during school vacations

Provides low-cost or free healthy meals and snacks in child care facilities

Must meet income criteria

Women: pregnant or postpartum Children: < 5 years old Must meet income criteria

Must meet income criteria

Must meet income criteria

Must live in a low-income area; may be required to be enrolled in a program at the site where the meals are served Must meet income criteria

Chapter 14 Food Assistance Programs 171

Homeless Children Nutrition Program (HCNP)

Commodity Supplemental Food Program

Food Distribution Program Indian Reservations (FDPIR)

Provides free food throughout the year to homeless children under the age of 6 years in emergency shelters

Provides nutrition education and monthly packages of USDA foods to low-income infants and children up to 6 years of age. (Postpartum and breastfeeding women and elderly persons aged 60 and older are also eligible)

Provides a monthly package of USDA foods to low-income households on Indian reservations and to low-income Native Americans living near Indian reservations

Must be a child under 6 years of age living in a shelter

Must meet income criteria

Must meet income criteria

USDA = US Department of Agriculture.


I. Mahan LK. Escott-Stump. Food, nutrition, and diet therapy.

Philadelphia: W'.B. Saunders Company; 1996. 2 Committee on Nutrition, American Academy of Pediatrics.

Pediatric nutrition handbook. 4th ed. The Academy; 1998, .V Child nutrition programs. US Department of Agriculture. Available from: URL:

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