In his fiscal 2017 budget proposal published earlier this week, the president requests $12.2 billion over the next ten years to create a permanent, nationwide program to ensure children have enough to eat when school is out for the summer
“This proposal is based on the Summer [Electronic Benefit Transfer for Children Program] pilots, which have proven successful in reducing childhood hunger and improving nutrition for children experiencing very low food security in the months when school meals are unavailable,” the US Department of Agriculture explains in its budget proposal justification.
Several advocacy groups lauded the proposal, noting research shows providing free and reduced meals can improve children’s focus and academic achievement as well as their health.
“President Obama understands if you make healthy food available, you’ll have better outcomes,” Ricardo Salvador, senior scientist and director of USC’s Food and Environment program, said.
He applauded the President’s commitment to making the Summer EBT Program permanent, noting children who receive free and reduced lunches often eat more fruits and vegetables than those who don’t participate in the program.
The budget also would help schools meet higher nutrition standards outlined in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 by providing $35 million in grants for equipment.
“There is a significant unmet need for kitchen equipment in schools and outdated equipment can make it more difficult to prepare healthy meals,” the budget notes.
An additional $10 million is earmarked for school meals direct certification grant expansions and $26 million to continue Summer EBT Demonstration Projects, while the program slowly expands nationwide.
Nutrition programs for elderly, kids improved
The budget proposal also would expand the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which helps Americans of all ages.
Specifically, the proposal seeks to direct $10 million to streamline the SNAP application process for elderly, $12 million to continue the SNAP Nutrition Education Center for Excellence and more for training and quality improvements.
The proposed budget also would provide $849 million to fund the Administration for Community Living Nutrition Services programs, which helps older adults “remain healthy and independent in their homes and communities by providing meals in senior centers or through home-delivery.”
The $14 million proposed increase from last year will allow states to provide 205 million meals to more than 2 million older adults nationwide, the proposal notes.
Finally, the proposal would benefit elderly by increasing by almost $14 million to $236 million the funds for the Commodity Supplement Food Program to support and expand caseloads in states by 20,000.
Reflecting on the proposal, the Food Research and Action Center praised the Administration’s ongoing commitment to supporting federal nutrition programs.
It emphasized the programs importance, and encouraged continued support, noting: “as the economy continues to recover, there is still a great need to provide tens of millions of Americans access to these programs, which serve as the first line of defense against hunger and economic insecurity.”