Food Programs in the United States that Help Improve Nutrition
The United States offers several programs to give people access to food, and there are also local soup kitchens, food banks, and food pantries. These volunteer organizations depend on contributions and local, state, and federal grants. The help to feed the homeless, unemployed, working poor, and developmentally disabled in many states.
The Child and Adult Care Program
The Child and Adult Care Program (CACFP) promotes good nutrition through financial reimbursement. Those who qualify are licensed home daycare providers and daycare centers that serve nutritional meals. They also provide nutritious meals to over 120,000 adults in nonresidential day care centers.
The Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program
The Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) is aimed at the nutritional needs of low-income families. Locals are trained by professionals in nutrition to provide free nutrition education in the homes of low-income families. They focus on strategies to control food costs, as well breast-feeding support for mothers. The focus on food resource management is in fact target to new mothers, where a positive change in food choices has been noted.
Many Farmer's Markets Now Accept SNAP debit cards.
Food Stamps now Known as SNAP
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) previously known as the Food Stamp Program provides debit cards that can be used to purchase food or seeds to grow food. The allotment is based on the Thrifty Food Plan, which is a plan designed to meet the lowest possible cost for nutritional adequacy. It was not intended to serve as a long-term solution. So relying solely on food stamps to meet food or nutritional needs is a challenge even for the extremely educated.
To apply for SNAP benefits, everyone in the household must have a Social Security Number. SNAP benefits can be applied for at the local Social Security office.
Aid to Families with Dependent Children
The Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program is also referred to as the welfare program and was started during the Great Depression. This program along with SNAP have been shown to continue to show positive effects on children's nutritional status. However, the programs have their limitations. Families on these programs have been shown to buy foods of less nutritional value, because it is cheaper to buy white bread, and highly processed foods than whole grains, vegetables, and fruits.
Commodity Supplemental Food Program
The Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) is offered to lower-income women and their children up to age 6 who are eligible for other public assistance. It is also available for seniors over 60 with income less than 130% of the federal poverty level. Food or cash benefits may be provided. The program targets population groups most at risk for malnutrition and help families financially.
The Nutrition Program for the Elderly
The federal Older Americans Act provides the states with money to conduct nutrition programs for the elderly. Under this legislation, a hot noon meal is served to elderly persons 5 days a week in senior centers. This funding also provides transportation for individuals who are otherwise unable to get to center. Nutritional education, health services, and recreational activities are planned around meals. For home-bound elderly persons, up to a week's worth of meals are provided. Meals on Wheels is a separate similar program often operated by local hospitals.
Project Head Start
Head Start is aimed at children ages 3 to 5 years old whose parents' income is below the poverty line. The program combines nutrition, social services, parent involvement, and health services within an educational setting. Nutritious meals and snacks are provided. Family-eating is promoted in that the classroom teachers eat the same foods as the children to serve as role models and promote a positive meal environment. Food is served family-style in common dishes and passed around the table so children can take their own portions. This helps build social and fine-motor skills and gives children a feeling of control over food choices.
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The School Lunch and Breakfast Program
The School Lunch and Breakfast Program provides nutritious foods at reduced cost for children whose families fall within 185% of the poverty line. It further provides free meals for those below the poverty line.
Women, Infants, and Children Supplemental Nutrition Program
The WIC program began as a means to eradicate childhood anemia. It provides food vouchers for prescribed supplemental foods that contribute 100% of the daily needed Vitamin C, and calcium and vitamin D, as well as about 45% of the daily needed Iron. It provides vouchers for juices, legumes, cereals, milk, eggs, and formula for bottle fed infants.
The program is aimed at promoting the growth of the young child and nutritional education is provided. Because the program is a grant program rather than an entitlement program, Congress is not mandated to allocate funds to serve all eligible participants. As a result, waiting list for enrollment in WIC often occur at which time the highest-risk individuals are served in priority status.