Domestic Food Assistance: Summary of Programs

Over the years, Congress has authorized and the federal government has administered programs to provide food to the hungry and to other vulnerable populations in this country. This report offers a brief overview of hunger and food insecurity along with the related network of programs. The report is structured around three main tables that contain information about each program, including its authorizing language, administering agency, eligibility, services provided, participation data, and funding information. In between the tables, contextual information about this policy area and program administration is provided that may assist Congress in tracking developments in domestic food assistance. This report provides a bird’s-eye view of domestic food assistance and can be used both to learn about the details of individual programs as well as compare and contrast features across programs.

This report includes overview information for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service (USDA-FNS) programs as well as nutrition programs administered by the Administration on Aging (AOA), within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Community Living (HHS-ACL). USDA-FNS programs include nutrition programs most recently reauthorized by the 2014 farm bill (the Agricultural Act of 2014; P.L. 113-79). Programs included in the farm bill are the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, and the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program. USDA-FNS also administers programs not contained in the farm bill: the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and Child Nutrition programs (School Breakfast Program, National School Lunch Program [NSLP], Summer Food Service Program [SFSP], Special Milk Program, and Child and Adult Care Food Program [CACFP]). HHS-ACL programs are the nutrition programs contained in the Older Americans Act (OAA)—Congregate Nutrition Program; Home Delivered Nutrition Program; Grants to Native Americans: Supportive and Nutrition Services; and the Nutrition Services Incentive Program (NSIP).

Domestic Food Assistance: Summary of Programs

January 11, 2017 (R42353)
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Summary

Over the years, Congress has authorized and the federal government has administered programs to provide food to the hungry and to other vulnerable populations in this country. This report offers a brief overview of hunger and food insecurity along with the related network of programs. The report is structured around three main tables that contain information about each program, including its authorizing language, administering agency, eligibility, services provided, participation data, and funding information. In between the tables, contextual information about this policy area and program administration is provided that may assist Congress in tracking developments in domestic food assistance. This report provides a bird's-eye view of domestic food assistance and can be used both to learn about the details of individual programs as well as compare and contrast features across programs.

This report includes overview information for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition Service (USDA-FNS) programs as well as nutrition programs administered by the Administration on Aging (AOA), within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Administration for Community Living (HHS-ACL). USDA-FNS programs include nutrition programs most recently reauthorized by the 2014 farm bill (the Agricultural Act of 2014; P.L. 113-79). Programs included in the farm bill are the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, and the Senior Farmers' Market Nutrition Program. USDA-FNS also administers programs not contained in the farm bill: the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and Child Nutrition programs (School Breakfast Program, National School Lunch Program [NSLP], Summer Food Service Program [SFSP], Special Milk Program, and Child and Adult Care Food Program [CACFP]). HHS-ACL programs are the nutrition programs contained in the Older Americans Act (OAA)—Congregate Nutrition Program; Home Delivered Nutrition Program; Grants to Native Americans: Supportive and Nutrition Services; and the Nutrition Services Incentive Program (NSIP).


Domestic Food Assistance: Summary of Programs

Background

This report gives an overview of the major federal programs that provide food assistance within the United States and the territories. The report begins by discussing common concepts and themes across the network of domestic food assistance programs. The report is split into two main parts: programs administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition Service (USDA-FNS), and programs administered by the Administration on Aging (AOA), within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Administration for Community Living (HHS-ACL). Within the USDA-FNS section are two subsections of programs: Farm Bill programs (Table 1), and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and Child Nutrition Programs (Table 2). Within the HHS-ACL section, Table 3 provides an overview of the Older Americans Act (OAA) nutrition programs.1 The tables within this report are intended to provide summary information, which can help illustrate the ways in which domestic food assistance programs are both similar and different.

Hunger and Food Insecurity

Congress has long been interested in issues of hunger and allocating federal resources to address hunger in this country. The federal programs discussed in this report pursue the goal of providing food to low-income and needy populations, seeking to prevent hunger. Some of these programs, such as the National School Lunch Program, have deep roots dating to the Depression era.

Evaluating trends in hunger in our nation is crucial to understanding if the efforts to prevent hunger are working and in recognizing if there are particular vulnerable populations that need assistance. Hunger, however, is a challenging concept to measure. For that reason, the terms "food security" and "food insecurity," as opposed to "hunger," are the prevailing terms used to describe the ability to access adequate food.

"Food security" and "food insecurity" focus on those economic and other access-related reasons associated with an individual's ability to purchase or otherwise obtain enough to eat. They are also terms that can be objectively measured. For this reason, a 2006 panel convened by the National Research Council, at the request of USDA, reviewed USDA measurements related to food adequacy. The panel recommended that USDA make a clear distinction between food insecurity and hunger. According to the panel, hunger is an individual-level physiological condition that is not feasible to measure through a household survey.2 Furthermore, the panel stated that it is difficult to capture gradations in hunger through individual assessment. Thus, the terms food security and food insecurity do not capture those non-economic or other individual behaviors that may result in the physical condition of being hungry. For example, these terms do not capture instances where an individual may have missed a meal due to illness or because they were otherwise too busy to eat.

Each year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service (USDA-ERS) conducts an analysis based on Current Population Survey (CPS) data to measure food security in the United States.3 Data from the USDA-ERS's 2015 study are included in this CRS report. ERS uses terminology that indicates whether a household was able to purchase or otherwise acquire enough to eat in 2015 ("food security") or not able to purchase or acquire enough to eat ("food insecurity"). Since 2006, ERS has distinguished between a spectrum of four levels of food security, listed below from highest to lowest:

Food Security:

High food securityHouseholds had no problems, or anxiety about, consistently accessing adequate food.

Marginal food security—Households had problems at times, or anxiety about, accessing adequate food, but the quality, variety, and quantity of their food intake were not substantially reduced.

Food Insecurity:

Low food security—Households reduced the quality, variety, and desirability of their diets, but the quantity of food intake and normal eating patterns were not substantially disrupted.

Very low food security—At times during the year, eating patterns of one or more household members were disrupted and food intake reduced because the household lacked money and other resources for food.4

In their report released January 2016, a congressional commission, the National Commission on Hunger, used "very low food security" as its working definition of "hunger."5

The annual rate of food insecurity for households was 11.1% in 2007, rose to 14.6% in 2008 and ranged as low as 14.0% and as high as 14.9% in 2010-2014.6 The 2015 rate of food insecurity, 12.7%, is a significant decline from 2014 (14.0%).7 These rates, as well as the subset "very low food security," are shown in Figure 1. Specific measurements for 2014 are the following:

  • 12.7% of U.S. households were food insecure (87.3% of U.S. households were food secure). This was a statistically significant decrease from 2014.
  • 5.0% had very low food security; this is a statistically significant decrease from 2014.
  • 59.0% of food insecure households reported that they had participated in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP), WIC, or National School Lunch programs in the last month. (61% had reported participation in the programs in the last month in the 2014 report.)

Figure 1. Rate of Food Insecure Households, 1998-2015

Using USDA-ERS Tabulation of Current Population Survey Food Security Supplement Data

Source: CRS adapted from Household Food Security in the United States in 2015, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, ERR-215, September 2014, (and past years' reports in the series) using data from U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, 1998 to 2015 Food Security Supplements.

Notes: "Very low food security" is a subset of "Food insecurity."

ERS also tabulates food insecurity rates for many different subpopulations and household types, finding subgroups above and below the national rates of food insecurity. Some examples of their 2015 findings include the following:

  • 8.3% of households that included an elderly member were food insecure.8 This decline from 2014's rate (8.9%) is not statistically significant.
  • 16.6% of households that included children were food insecure. Food insecure households with children do not always include food insecure children, as many adults shield children. 7.8% of households with children included food insecure children. Figure 2, created by ERS, displays the food security and insecurity status of household members within the category of households with children. Both of these measures are statistically significant declines from 2014.
  • 21.5% of households headed by black, non-Hispanics and 19.1% of households headed by Hispanics were food insecure, while 10.5% of white, non-Hispanic households were food insecure. Both of these measures are statistically significant declines from 2014.

Figure 2. U.S. Households with Children by Food Security Status,
Adults and Children, 2015

Source: Reproduced from USDA-ERS, https://www.ers.usda.gov/webdocs/charts/us_households_with_children_by_food_security_status_fed01png/u.s.%20households%20with%20children%20by%20food%20security%20status_fed-01.png?v=42689.

Program Variation

There are a number of domestic food assistance programs. Although each of the 17 programs discussed in this report provides for food in some way, the ways in which each program accomplishes this goal vary. For example, programs vary with respect to the target population (e.g., pregnant women, children, older individuals), eligibility requirements, and types of assistance provided (e.g., commodity foods versus prepared meals). In an April 2010 report, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) listed 70 programs that pertain to food and nutrition but ultimately narrowed their study to a smaller subset of programs that focus on food assistance or coordination of food assistance activities.9

One way to examine this variation is to compare the eligible populations for these domestic food assistance programs. For instance, the WIC program is available to children under the age of 5, while the school meals programs (National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program) become available to school-age children. Another way to examine this variation is to examine the benefits that programs provide. Within this constellation of programs, federal resources provide benefits redeemable for uncooked foods, cash assistance to support program operations, USDA-purchased commodity foods (discussed further in the next section), and prepared meals. While some programs provide specific foods (for example, through the federal and state requirements for "food package" in the Commodity Supplemental Food Program [CSFP] and WIC), the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) gives benefits that may be redeemed for a wide variety of foods at authorized retailers. OAA programs provide prepared meals that not only assist those who lack adequate resources to purchase food, but can also assist those who lack the functional capacity to prepare a meal on their own.

The following sections of the report and the accompanying tables provide more details about the services, eligibility, participation, and funding for each program. They help illustrate the similarities and differences between the programs, including the extent to which they provide similar or distinct forms of assistance to similar or distinct populations.

Note on Funding Data Used in This Report

Status of FY2017 Funding. Full-year appropriations for the domestic food assistance programs listed in the tables to follow were not enacted prior to the start of FY2017 (October 1, 2016). Instead, temporary funding for these programs has been provided by two FY2017 continuing resolutions (CRs; P.L. 114-254 and P.L. 114-223). In general, a CR continues the funding rate and other provisions of the previous year's appropriations. The current CR lasts until April 28, 2017, and continues all the provisions of the first FY2017 CR (P.L. 114-223), with some modifications and additions.10 Under the terms of the current CR:

  • Discretionary funding is provided at the same rate and under the same conditions as in FY2016, minus an across-the-board reduction of about one-fifth of one percent (-0.1901%) (P.L. 114-254, Division A, Section 101(2)). The first FY2017 CR had set discretionary spending levels at FY2016, minus an across-the-board reduction of about one-half of one percent (-0.496%).
  • Mandatory spending provided by annual appropriations acts (this includes SNAP and other programs authorized by the Food and Nutrition Act and most child nutrition programs) is provided to maintain program levels under current law (P.L. 114-223, Division C, Section 111; continued by P.L. 114-254).
  • There are some exceptions to the basic CR provisions, including special provisions or "anomalies" affecting selected USDA-FNS funding streams.11

FY2016 Data Displayed in This Report. Because FY2017 appropriations are not yet final, the tables to follow display FY2016 appropriations for the discretionary programs, including WIC and the OAA programs.

For the USDA-FNS programs that are open-ended mandatory programs (e.g., SNAP and the Child Nutrition programs), the tables include FY2016 costs according to USDA-FNS, because that measure better reflects program spending. USDA programs that are funded through transfers and not appropriations (e.g., the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, Senior Farmers' Market Nutrition Program) are noted accordingly.

Appropriations for the USDA-FNS open-ended mandatory programs are listed in CRS Report R44240, Agriculture and Related Agencies: FY2016 Appropriations, coordinated by [author name scrubbed].

USDA-FNS Programs

USDA Food Assistance Resources

USDA's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) administers domestic food assistance programs authorized in the farm bill (Table 1),12 as well as WIC and Child Nutrition Programs (Table 2). Table 1 and Table 2 provide details on the USDA-FNS programs, including services provided, eligibility, participation, and funding.

The USDA-FNS national office works in concert with USDA's regional offices13 and state agencies. With respect to SNAP (formerly known as the Food Stamp Program), state agencies and legislatures have a number of options and waivers that can affect SNAP program operations from state to state. USDA-FNS's "SNAP State Options" report illustrates how states are administering the program.14 With respect to school meals programs (National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program), state departments of education and school districts play a role in administering these programs. WIC as well as the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) are often co-administered by state and local health departments.

As mentioned above, USDA commodity15 foods are foods purchased by the USDA for distribution to USDA nutrition programs. The programs in this report that include USDA commodity foods are The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), National School Lunch Program (NSLP), Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), and Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). USDA commodity foods are also provided to the HHS-ACL's Nutrition Services Incentive Program (NSIP) (Table 3). These programs distribute "entitlement commodities" (an amount of USDA foods to which grantees are entitled by law) as well as "bonus commodities" (USDA food purchases based on requests from the agricultural producer community).16

These domestic food assistance programs have a historical, and in most respects, ongoing relationship with farming and agriculture. For example, the first Food Stamp Program, a pilot program in the 1940s, sold orange and blue "food stamps" to program participants.17 While $1 would provide a program participant with $1 in value of "orange stamps" that could be spent on any food, the program participant would also receive an additional 50 cents worth of "blue stamps," which could only be used to purchase agricultural products that were in surplus. Commodity donation programs that supported the post-Depression farm economy were precursors to the National School Lunch Program.18 TEFAP and several of the child nutrition programs still benefit from USDA commodity foods as well as USDA's donation of bonus commodities, which USDA purchases based on agricultural producers' identification of surplus goods or need for price support. As a contemporary example, the 2014 farm bill (P.L. 113-79), most recent child nutrition reauthorization (P.L. 111-296), and USDA initiatives include efforts to promote "farm-to-school" endeavors, seeking, for example, to facilitate school cafeterias' purchasing from local and regional farms.19

Farm Bill

Table 1 lists those programs that were most recently reauthorized by the 2014 farm bill. The "farm bill" is an omnibus reauthorization and extension of dozens of farm, food, and nutrition laws. Most recently, Congress passed the Agricultural Act of 2014 (P.L. 113-79), which is referred to as the 2014 farm bill. The 2014 farm bill included 12 titles on topics ranging from conservation, rural development, and research to horticulture.20 The nutrition title, Title IV, included all of the programs listed in Table 1.

Farm bill nutrition programs have their authorizing language in the

The primary food assistance program in the farm bill is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found that close to 79% of the 2014 farm bill spending was in the nutrition title, Title IV.21 This is primarily due to the mandatory money associated with SNAP. Formerly referred to as the Food Stamp Program, the federal program name change to SNAP was included in the 2008 farm bill (P.L. 110-246).

Farm bill nutrition programs have generally been under the jurisdiction of the House Agriculture Committee and the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry.22 The 2014 farm bill was enacted on February 7, 2014, and provides authorization through FY2018 (September 30, 2018) for most nutrition program activities.

WIC and Child Nutrition Programs

Table 2 lists the programs authorized by the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act (P.L. 79-396) and the Child Nutrition Act of 1966 (P.L. 89-642). Broadly, the programs contained in these laws are the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) as well as the "child nutrition programs." "Child nutrition programs" is a category used to describe the USDA-FNS programs that help to provide food for children in school or institutional settings.

The National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs provide a per-meal subsidy for each meal that is served for free, for a reduced price, or for a full price (called a "paid" meal). The Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) and Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) will, under certain circumstances, provide free meals or snacks to all the children at a site, because it is the site (not the child) that is subject to eligibility criteria. The Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP), or snack program (see Table 1), is sometimes referred to as a child nutrition program. In this report, it is included in farm bill programs because FFVP was included in the 2008 farm bill.

Generally, the WIC and Child Nutrition Programs' authorizing statutes are reauthorized for a five-year period. The most recent reauthorization, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (P.L. 111-296), was signed into law in December 2010. It reauthorized these programs through FY2015. Policymakers have played an oversight role as USDA implements the legislation. Certain provisions from that law expired after September 30, 2015. As of the date of this report, Congress has not reauthorized the child nutrition and WIC statutes, but the vast majority of child nutrition and WIC programs and activities continue due to the provision of funding in FY2016 and FY2017 appropriations laws (including continuing resolutions).23

WIC and the child nutrition programs have generally been under the jurisdiction of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce and the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry. For details (beyond Table 2 information) on these programs and their reauthorizations, see

Table 1. Overview of Farm Bill Programs

Authorizing Legislation / Federal Administrative Entity

Program Information

FY2016 Appropriations (or costs as noted)
(in millions)

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly the Food Stamp Program)

Food and Nutrition Act (7 U.S.C. 2011 et seq.) / Administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition Service (USDA-FNS)

Description: Provides benefits (through the use of electronic benefit transfer cards) that supplement low-income recipients' food purchasing power. Benefits vary by household size, income, and expenses (like shelter and medical costs) and averaged nearly $126 per person per month in FY2016. In lieu of SNAP benefits, (1) Puerto Rico operates a nutrition assistance block grant program using rules very similar to SNAP; (2) Indian Tribal Organizations and some state agencies administer a food distribution program on Indian reservations and in other Native American communities (Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations [FDPIR]), with eligibility rules close to SNAP; and (3) American Samoa and the Northern Marianas receive nutrition assistance block grants for programs serving their low-income populations.

Eligibility: In general, eligible households must meet a gross income test (monthly cash income below 130% of the federal poverty guidelines), net income (monthly cash income subtracting SNAP deductible expenses at or below 100% of the federal poverty guidelines), (for FY2017) liquid assets under $2,250 (assets under $3,250 if elderly or disabled household members). However, households with elderly or disabled members do not have to meet the gross income test. Recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) cash assistance, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or state-funded General Assistance are categorically eligible for SNAP. The state option of broad-based categorical eligibility also allows for the modification of some SNAP eligibility rules and has resulted in the vast majority of states not utilizing an asset test.a

Data: In FY2016, SNAP had an average monthly participation of approximately 44.2 million individuals in 21.8 million households. Although this information is not yet available for FY2016, for FY2015, approximately 44% of participants were under age 18, and 10% were age 60 or older.

$70,867b

The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP)

The Food and Nutrition Act, Section 27 and The Emergency Food Assistance Act, Section 204(a) (7 U.S.C. 2036 & 7508(a)) / Administered by USDA-FNS

Description: Provides food commodities (and cash support for distribution costs) through states to local emergency feeding organizations (e.g., food banks/pantries, soup kitchens) serving the low-income population.

Eligibility: States designate local emergency feeding organization recipients and establish income standards for individual eligibility.

Data: Information on the number of recipients or the average value of benefits under TEFAP is not available.

$372c

Community Food Projects

 

 

Food and Nutrition Act, Section 25 (7 U.S.C. 2034) / Administered by USDA-National Institute of Food and Agriculture

Competitive grants to nonprofit organizations for programs that improve access to locally produced food for low-income households. Eligibility for grants will vary according to request for applications.

$9

Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP)

Agriculture and Consumer Protection Act of 1973, Section 4(a) (7 U.S.C. 612c note) / Administered by USDA-FNS

Description: Provides supplemental monthly food packages to primarily low-income elderly persons in projects located in, in FY2016, 47 States, the District of Columbia, and two Indian Tribal Organizations (ITOs).

Eligibility: Elderly persons (age 60+) who have access to a local CSFP project and household income below 130% of the federal poverty guidelines. (Prior to 2014, women, infants, and children with income below 185% of the federal poverty guidelines had been eligible for CSFP. P.L. 113-79 reauthorized the program as seniors-only; women, infants, and children may continue to participate only if they had been participating prior to implementation of this change.)

Data: In FY2016, over 585,000 individuals participated in CSFP each month. Nearly all (just under 585,000) of the participants were over the age of 60.

$222

Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP)

Russell National School Lunch Act, Section 19 (42 U.S.C. 1769a) (expanded in Section 4304 of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-246) / Administered by USDA-FNS

Description: Provides grants to schools to purchase fresh fruit and vegetable snacks to be provided during the school day.

Eligibility: Program is nationwide in select schools. States are required to select elementary schools in which 50% or more of the students are eligible for free or reduced price meals. Priority is placed on schools where the highest proportion of children are eligible for free and reduced-price meals.

Data: Information on the number of FFVP recipients is not available.

$177d

Senior Farmers' Market Nutrition Program

Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-246), Section 4231 (7 U.S.C. 3007) / Administered by USDA-FNS

Description: Provides grants to participating states to offer vouchers/coupons to low-income seniors that may be used in farmers' markets, roadside stands, and other approved venues to purchase fresh produce.

Eligibility: Income eligibility criteria are established by states.

Data: In FY2015, nearly 818,000 individuals in 43 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and eight Indian Tribal Organizations received annual SFMNP vouchers/coupons worth an average of $32.

$21e

Source: Prepared by CRS based on FY2016 appropriations information provided by P.L. 114-113 and the Appropriations Committees' accompanying joint explanatory statement; exceptions and further details are provided in the notes below. USDA-FNS FY2016 total program costs other program data are from USDA-FNS data sources found through http://www.fns.usda.gov/data-and-statistics (as of January 6, 2017) or the FY2017 USDA-FNS Budget Explanatory Notes (http://www.obpa.usda.gov/32fns2017notes.pdf).

a. For a summary of the non-financial eligibility rules, see CRS Report R42505, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): A Primer on Eligibility and Benefits, by [author name scrubbed].

b. USDA-FNS FY2016 "Total Costs" data (not appropriations) are included here. Data as of December 9, 2016, available on USDA-FNS website, https://www.fns.usda.gov/sites/default/files/pd/SNAPsummary.pdf. As an open-ended appropriated mandatory program, SNAP's funding is largely based on the demand for program's benefits and services.

c. Total includes FY2016 appropriated mandatory funding for entitlement commodities ($318 million) and discretionary funding for administrative costs ($54.4 million); total does not include USDA's bonus commodity donations.

d. FFVP funding is permanently authorized to receive an annual transfer of $150 million (plus an annual adjustment for inflation) from the Section 32 account. However, since FY2009, appropriations laws have delayed the transfer, which impacts the amount of funding actually available for the program in a given fiscal year. Amount shown in the table is based on USDA-FNS's 2015-2016 school year funding information for this program (http://www.fns.usda.gov/fresh-fruit-and-vegetable-program-allocation-funds-school-year-2015-2016).

e. Senior Farmers' Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) funding is provided by a transfer from the Commodity Credit Corporation; the transfer is authorized by the program's authorizing language. SFMNP is not funded by appropriations. Amount shown is authorized transfer amount for FY2016.

Table 2. Overview of WIC and Child Nutrition Programs

Authorizing Legislation / Federal Administrative Entity

Program Information

FY2016
Appropriations (or costs, as noted)
(in millions)

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

Child Nutrition Act, Section 17 (42 U.S.C. 1786) / Administered by USDA-FNS

Description: Provides supplemental, nutrient-rich foods; nutrition education and counseling; and breastfeeding promotion and support to low-income women, infants, and children. WIC benefits are redeemable for a list of nutrient-rich foods specific to the participant's eligibility category and medical needs (for example, foods specifically recommended for an anemic pregnant woman). These foods are specified in USDA-FNS regulations, although state agencies may further specify.

Eligibility: Pregnant, postpartum, and breastfeeding women, infants, and children up to age five with household income at or below 185% of the federal poverty guidelines may be WIC eligible. Applicants must be individually determined to be at "nutritional risk" by a health professional and must meet state residency requirements. Applicants may also be categorically eligible based on receipt of TANF cash assistance, SNAP, or Medicaid. (States are prohibited from allowing dual participation in both WIC and CSFP.)

Data: In FY2016, an average monthly total of approximately 7.7 million individuals (down from 8.0 million in FY2015) participated in WIC. This includes an average monthly total of approximately 4.0 million (52%) children, 1.9 million (24%) infants, and 1.8 million (24%) women.

$6,350a

WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program

Child Nutrition Act, Section 17(m) (42 U.S.C. 1786(m)) / Administered by USDA-FNS

Description: Provides grants to participating states to offer vouchers/coupons/EBT to WIC participants that may be used in farmers' markets, roadside stands, and other approved venues to purchase fresh produce.

Eligibility: Women, infants over four months old, and children who are certified to receive WIC Program benefits or who are on a waiting list for WIC certification are eligible to participate in the FMNP.

Data: In FY2015, approximately 1.7 million WIC participants in 37 states, District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and six Indian Tribal Organizations received annual FMNP benefits worth an average of $23 per year.

$18.5

School Breakfast Program (SBP)

 

Child Nutrition Act, Section 4 (42 U.S.C. 1773) / Administered by USDA-FNS

Description: Provides federal cash assistance for elementary and secondary schools that provide breakfast to school children. Federal subsidies currently range from about 30 cents to $2.00 per meal (depending on the type of meal/snack and the income of the recipient, with subsidies higher in Alaska and Hawaii). Total amount of assistance is based on the number of free, reduced-price, and paid lunches served.

Eligibility: Children are eligible to receive free school breakfasts if their family income is below 130% of federal poverty guidelines, or if they receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits or services, or if they are in foster care, migrant, runaway, or homeless. Children are eligible to receive reduced-price school breakfasts if their family income is between 130% and 185% of federal poverty guidelines. Schools with 40% or more of students identified as categorically eligible for free meals may serve free meals to all students at the school.

Data: In FY2016, an average of 14.5 million students participated each school day; 11.5 million received a free breakfast, 860,000 received a breakfast at reduced price, and 2.2 million received a full-price (paid) meal.

$4,195b

National School Lunch Program (NSLP)

Russell National School Lunch Act (42 U.S.C. 1751 et seq.) / Administered by USDA-FNS

Description: Provides federal assistance, in the form of cash and commodities, to elementary and secondary schools that provide lunch to school children. Federal subsidies currently range from about 30 cents to $3.00 per meal (depending on the type of meal/snack and the income of the recipient, with subsidies higher in Alaska and Hawaii). Total amount of assistance is based on the number of free, reduced-price, and paid lunches served.

Eligibility: Children are eligible to receive free school lunches if their household income is below 130% of federal poverty guidelines, or if they receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits or services, or if they are in foster care, migrant, runaway, or homeless. Children are eligible to receive reduced-price school lunches if their household income is between 130% and 185% of federal poverty guidelines. Schools with 40% or more of students identified as categorically eligible for free meals may serve free meals to all students at the school.

Data: In FY2016, an average of 30.3 million students participated each school day, 20.0 million received a free lunch, 2.0 million received a lunch at reduced price, and 8.2 million received a full-price (paid) lunch.

$13,522b

Summer Food Service Program (SFSP)

Russell National School Lunch Act, Section 13 (42 U.S.C. 1761) / Administered by USDA-FNS

Description: Provides federal cash assistance and some commodity foods to local public and private nonprofit "service institutions" running summer youth programs, camps, or other recreation sites that serve low-income children during their summer break or during lengthy school-year breaks. Sites may be schools, camps, community centers, and other organizations. Sponsors receive per-meal/snack subsidies as well as assistance with operating costs.

Eligibility: Children age 18 or younger and certain individuals with disabilities over the age of 18, who live in low-income areas where at least half the children are from families with incomes below 185% of federal poverty guidelines (open sites), or who are enrolled in an activity program where half the children are from families with incomes below 185% of federal poverty guidelines (enrolled sites), and children from families with incomes below 185% of federal poverty guidelines at participating camps. Automatically eligible are homeless or runaway children and children in Head Start, Early Head Start, Even Start, or state-funded pre-kindergarten programs that have received authorized waivers.

Data: In FY2016, based on July 2016 data, summer meals were served at nearly 48,000 sites to 2.7 million children and youth each summer day.

$474b

Special Milk Program

Child Nutrition Act, Section 3 (42 U.S.C. 1772) / Administered by the USDA-FNS

Description: Provides public or nonprofit schools or child care institutions that do not participate in other federal meal programs with a per-half pint reimbursement for part of the cost of milk served to children/students.

Eligibility: Any child at a participating school or half-day pre-kindergarten program can receive milk through the Special Milk Program. Children may either buy milk or receive it free, depending on the school's choice of program options.

Data: In FY2016, approximately 45.0 million half-pints of milk were subsidized through the Special Milk Program.

$9b

Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP)

Russell National School Lunch Act, Section 17 (42 U.S.C. 1766)) / Administered by the USDA-FNS

Description: Provides cash subsidies to participating child care centers, family day care homes, after-school programs, and non-residential adult-care centers for the meals and snacks they serve to children, the elderly, and chronically disabled persons. In child care centers and non-residential adult-care settings, per-meal/snack subsidy payments are the same as those for school meals and child care centers. Family day care homes are reimbursed according to a tiered system. Federal subsidies currently range from about 25 cents to $2.80 (depending on the type of meal/snack and the income of the recipient, with higher subsidies in Alaska and Hawaii).

Eligibility: (Child care centers) Children's eligibility for free and reduced-price meals and snacks is the same as for school meals programs. (Day care homes) There is no requirement that meals and snacks be served free or at reduced price. Instead, the homes receive a subsidy for every meal served; the size of the subsidy is based on whether the home is a Tier I or Tier II home. Tiering is based on the low-income status of the child care provider or the community in which the provider is located. (Adult services) Elderly (age 60+) or chronically disabled persons attending participating non-residential adult-care centers. Both for-profit and nonprofit centers are eligible to participate. Adults are eligible for free or reduced meals based on income guidelines that are the same as in school meals programs.

Data: In FY2016, the average daily participation of children and adults was approximately 4.3 million. Of the 4.2 million children served, approximately 3.4 million were in child care centers and 753,000 were in family day care homes.

$3,358b

Source: Prepared by CRS based on FY2016 appropriations information provided by P.L. 114-113 and the Appropriations Committees' accompanying joint explanatory statement; exceptions and further details are provided in the notes below. USDA-FNS FY2016 total program costs other program data are from USDA-FNS data sources found through http://www.fns.usda.gov/data-and-statistics (as of January 6, 2017) or the FY2017 USDA-FNS Budget Explanatory Notes (http://www.obpa.usda.gov/32fns2017notes.pdf).

a. In addition, Section 751 of P.L. 114-113 provided $220 million for management information systems and WIC EBT by rescinding FY2015 carryover and recovery funding.

b. USDA-FNS FY2016 "Total Costs" data (not appropriations) are included here. Data as of December 9, 2016, available on USDA-FNS website, https://www.fns.usda.gov/pd/child-nutrition-tables. As an open-ended appropriated mandatory program, these child nutrition programs' funding is largely based on the demand for the programs' benefits and services.

HHS-ACL Programs

The Administration on Aging (AOA) within the Department of Health and Human Service (HHS), Administration for Community Living (ACL) administers domestic food assistance programs authorized under the Older Americans Act (OAA). These programs provide formula grants to states, U.S. territories, and Indian tribal organizations to support congregate and home-delivered meals to older Americans.24 AOA also administers the Nutrition Services Incentive Program (NSIP), which provides funds to the same entities to purchase food for these programs. While OAA's nutrition programs provide food assistance in the form of a prepared meal to older individuals living in the community, the stated purpose of the program is not only to reduce hunger and food insecurity, but also to promote socialization, as well as the health and well-being of older individuals.25 Table 3 provides details on the HHS-ACL programs, including eligibility, services provided, and funding.

Older individuals who meet certain income and other requirements may also be eligible for other domestic food assistance programs administered by USDA, such as SNAP, the Senior Farmers' Market Nutrition Program, and the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP). Moreover, other services funded under OAA may provide outreach, education, and referral to older individuals about available benefits and programs, such as SNAP and CSFP. While the senior nutrition programs are administered by AOA, there continues to be program coordination between AOA and USDA. At the federal level, states and other entities may choose to receive all or part of their NSIP allotments in the form of USDA commodities.26 Obligations for NSIP commodity procurement are funded under an agreement between AOA and USDA.27

At the state level, HHS and USDA-FNS nutrition services programs that target seniors may be jointly administered under State Aging and Disability Agencies, who are primarily responsible for administering OAA programs. According to findings from an evaluation of the OAA nutrition services programs, 8 in 10 State Units on Aging (SUAs) had a nutrition program administrator (NPA) who plans, develops, administers, implements, and evaluates OAA nutrition services. In 40% of SUAs with an NPA, the NPA has program responsibilities for OAA nutrition services as well as USDA programs such as SNAP and the Senior Farmers' Market Nutrition Program.28 Whether a state agency has some responsibility for administering HHS and USDA-FNS programs and services may depend on whether the agency functions as an independent administrative agency or part of an umbrella agency that also has responsibility for other health and human services.

SUAs may also collaborate with USDA-FNS programs. Most SUAs reported that they also collaborate with SNAP (56%) and the Senior Farmers' Market Nutrition Program (62%), but collaborate less so with other USDA FNS programs, such as CSFP, CACFP, and TEFAP.29 Collaboration activities with SNAP and the Senior Farmers' Market Nutrition Program included promoting older-adult access to these programs, participating in committees and workshops as well as training and assistance programs, and policy planning activities. Also, older adults participating in SNAP can use their benefits as a voluntary contribution toward the OAA meal if the nutrition service provider is authorized by USDA to accept SNAP benefits for this purpose and the older adults choose to do so.30

Congress has reauthorized and amended the OAA numerous times since it was first enacted in 1965. The last OAA reauthorization occurred in 2016, when the 114th Congress enacted the Older Americans Act Amendments of 2016 (P.L. 114-144), which extended the act's authorization of appropriations for most programs, including senior nutrition, through FY2019. The 2016 OAA reauthorization made two changes to the nutrition services programs. First, it required states to "utilize" the expertise of a dietician or other individuals with equivalent education and training in nutrition science, or an individual with comparable expertise (rather than "solicit"). Second, where feasible, it added language for states to ensure that the nutrition project encourages the use of locally grown foods in meals programs and identifies potential partnerships and contracts with local producers and providers of locally grown foods.31

Table 3. Overview of Older Americans Act (OAA) Nutrition Programs

Authorizing Legislation / Federal Administrative Entity

Program Information

FY2016 Funding
(in millions)

Congregate Nutrition Program

Older Americans Act, Title III, Part C, Subpart 1 (42 U.S.C. 3030e) / Administered by HHS-ACL

Description: Provides meals to seniors in settings such as senior centers, schools, and adult day care centers. Offers social services such as nutrition education and screening, nutrition assessment, and counseling at meals sites. Provides seniors with opportunities for social engagement and volunteerism.

Eligibility: The following groups are eligible: (1) persons age 60 or older and their spouses of any age; (2) persons under age 60 with disabilities who reside in housing occupied by seniors where meals are served; (3) persons with disabilities who reside at home with, and accompany, seniors to meals; and (4) volunteers.

Data: In 2014, 80.3 million congregate meals were served to about 1.6 million participants.

$448

Home Delivered Nutrition Program

Older Americans Act, Title III, Part C, Subpart 2 (42 U.S.C. 3030f) / Administered by HHS-ACL

Description: Provides meals to seniors who are homebound. Offers services such as nutrition screening and education, nutrition assessment, and counseling.

Eligibility: Persons age 60 or older and homebound and their spouses of any age. May be available to individuals who are under age 60 with disabilities if they reside at home with the homebound senior.

Data: In 2014, about 137.7 million home-delivered meals were served to just over 836,000 participants.

$226

Grants to Native Americans: Supportive and Nutrition Services

Older Americans Act, Title VI, (42 U.S.C. 3057c) / Administered by HHS-ACL

Description: Provides for the delivery of supportive and nutrition services comparable to services provided under Title III (i.e., congregate and home-delivered meals) to older Native Americans.

Eligibility: Older individuals who are Indians, Alaskan Natives, and Native Hawaiians.

Data: In 2014, 2.5 million congregate meals were served to 61,000 participants and 2.6 million home-delivered meals were served to almost 44,000 participants.

$31

Nutrition Services Incentive Program (NSIP)

Older Americans Act, Title III, Part A, Section 311 (42 U.S.C. 3030a) / Administered by HHS-ACL

Description: Provides funds to states, territories, and Indian Tribal Organizations to purchase food or to cover the costs of food commodities provided by USDA for the congregate and home-delivered nutrition programs. Funds are allotted to states and other entities based on each state's share of total meals served during the prior year. Most states choose to receive their share of funds in cash, rather than commodities.a

$160

Source: Prepared by CRS based on FY2016 appropriations information provided by P.L. 114-113 and the Appropriations Committees' accompanying joint explanatory statement. Program data are from the Administration on Aging, AGing Integrated Database (AGID), http://www.agid.acl.gov/.

Notes: For more information on programs and funding under the OAA, see CRS Report R43414, Older Americans Act: Background and Overview, by [author name scrubbed] and [author name scrubbed].

a. In FY2015, seven states chose to receive a portion of their share of the nutrition services incentive funds in commodities: Delaware, Idaho, Kansas, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada, and Oklahoma. The FY2015 value for these commodities was $2.6 million (USDA, FNS, 2017 Explanatory Notes, p. 32-169).

Author Contact Information

[author name scrubbed], Specialist in Nutrition Assistance Policy ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])
[author name scrubbed], Specialist in Health and Aging Policy ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])

Area of Expertise by Author

Area of Expertise

Name

Phone

E-mail

USDA-FNS Programs

[author name scrubbed]

[phone number scrubbed]

[email address scrubbed]

HHS-ACL Programs

[author name scrubbed]

[phone number scrubbed]

[email address scrubbed]

Footnotes

1.

There are additional federal programs that may provide food or meal assistance but these programs fall outside of what is typically considered to be the domestic food assistance programs. For example, while the early childhood education program, Head Start, may provide funds that go, in part, to providing meals, Head Start is not considered a food assistance program and is not included in this discussion. Similarly, emergency disaster relief programs administered by the Department of Homeland Security may in part provide sustenance as part of disaster recovery, but those programs are also not included in this overview.

2.

National Research Council, Food Insecurity and Hunger in the United States: An Assessment of the Measure, Washington, DC, 2006, pp. 23-51, http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=11578. As a result of these findings, USDA now measures "low food security" and "very low food security," not hunger.

3.

Alisa Coleman-Jensen, Matthew Rabbitt, Christian Gregory, et al, Household Food Security in the United States in 2015, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, ERR-215, September 2016, https://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/pub-details/?pubid=79760. Refer to this USDA-ERS report for additional measures of food security (e.g., regions, states, or populations of interest).

4.

USDA-ERS website, http://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/food-nutrition-assistance/food-security-in-the-us/measurement.aspx.

5.

National Commission on Hunger, Freedom from Hunger: An Achievable Goal for the United States of America, 2015, p. iv.

6.

Alisa Coleman-Jensen, Matthew Rabbitt, Christian Gregory, et al, Household Food Security in the United States in 2014, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, ERR-194, September 2015, http://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/err-economic-research-report/err194.aspx.

7.

The percentages shown in this report are estimates, based on a sample.  A different randomly drawn sample from the same population would likely produce a slightly different estimate.  ERS performed statistical tests to avoid mistaking sampling variability for real differences.  A difference between estimates is "statistically significant" if it is large enough that fewer than 10% of all possible survey samples would show a difference of that size, even if there were no real change in the population.

8.

USDA-ERS report defines elderly as 65 years of age or older.

9.

U.S. Government Accountability Office, Domestic Food Assistance: Complex System Benefits Millions, but Additional Efforts Could Address Potential Inefficiency and Overlap among Smaller Programs, GAO-10-346, April 2010, pp. 51-53.

10.

To learn more about the funding levels and anomalies for these programs, see CRS Appropriations products: for USDA programs, see CRS Report R44588, Agriculture and Related Agencies: FY2017 Appropriations, coordinated by [author name scrubbed]; for HHS programs, see CRS Report R44478, FY2017 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations: Status and Issues, coordinated by [author name scrubbed].

11.

FY2017 anomalies are in force for CSFP and certain child nutrition program funds. For more information on these special provisions, see related discussion in CRS Report R44723, Overview of Further Continuing Appropriations for FY2017 (H.R. 2028), coordinated by [author name scrubbed]; and CRS Report R44653, Overview of Continuing Appropriations for FY2017 (H.R. 5325), coordinated by [author name scrubbed].

12.

The Community Food Projects Competitive Grant Program is administered by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

13.

See also USDA-FNS website, "FNS Regional Offices," http://www.fns.usda.gov/fns-regional-offices.

14.

USDA-FNS, State Options Report: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program: April 15, 2016 (Options as of October 1, 2015), https://www.fns.usda.gov/sites/default/files/snap/12-State_Options.pdf‎.

15.

"Commodity" or "commodities" in the context of food assistance is broader and distinct from the term used to describe corn, wheat, soybeans, etc. in the context of commodity support programs such as described in CRS Report R43448, Farm Commodity Provisions in the 2014 Farm Bill (P.L. 113-79), coordinated by [author name scrubbed].

16.

For more on the procurement of USDA foods, see CRS Report RL34081, Farm and Food Support Under USDA's Section 32 Program, coordinated by [author name scrubbed]. For more information on FNS's distribution of commodities, please see USDA-FNS website, Food Distribution Programs and Services, http://www.fns.usda.gov/fdd/food-distribution-programs.

17.

USDA-FNS website, "A Short History of SNAP," http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/rules/Legislation/about.htm.

18.

Gordon W. Gunderson, USDA-FNS Website, "The National School Lunch Program: Background and Development," http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/lunch/AboutLunch/ProgramHistory_4.htm.

19.

USDA-FNS's Farm-to-School Initiative is described on the agency website: http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/f2s/. Further discussion of related policies can be found in CRS Report R44390, The Role of Local and Regional Food Systems in U.S. Farm Policy, by [author name scrubbed].

20.

For more information on the Omnibus Farm Bill, please consult CRS Report RS22131, What Is the Farm Bill?, by [author name scrubbed] and [author name scrubbed]. See CRS Report R43332, SNAP and Related Nutrition Provisions of the 2014 Farm Bill (P.L. 113-79), by [author name scrubbed] for domestic food assistance provisions in the 2014 law.

21.

Table 3 of CBO estimate of H.R. 2642, Agricultural Act of 2014, http://cbo.gov/publication/45049 (January 28, 2014). See also CRS Report R42484, Budget Issues That Shaped the 2014 Farm Bill, by [author name scrubbed].

22.

The Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, described in the table, was passed and financed by the 2008 farm bill. It amended the Russell National School Lunch Act—a statute typically reauthorized elsewhere and in the jurisdiction of the House Education and the Workforce committee.

23.

These concepts are discussed in CRS Report R44373, Tracking the Next Child Nutrition Reauthorization: An Overview, by [author name scrubbed].

24.

The Older Americans Act (OAA) statute defines "older individual" as an individual aged 60 and older. For more information on programs and funding under the OAA, see CRS Report R43414, Older Americans Act: Background and Overview.

25.

42 U.S.C. 3030e.

26.

The Nutrition Services Incentive Program (NSIP) was originally established by the OAA in 1974 as the Nutrition Program for the Elderly and administered by USDA. Congress transferred the administration of NSIP from USDA to AOA in 2003. In 2006, pursuant to P.L. 109-365, Congress rescinded states' option to receive commodities. However, in 2007, this option was reinstated through P.L. 110-19 (effective April 23, 2007), which authorized the transfer of NSIP funds from HHS to USDA for the purchase of commodities and related expenses.

27.

Most entities choose to receive their share of funds in cash, rather than commodities. In FY2015, seven states chose to receive a portion of their share of the nutrition services incentive funds in commodities: Delaware, Idaho, Kansas, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada, and Oklahoma. The FY2015 value for these commodities was $2.6 million (USDA, FNS, 20176 Explanatory Notes, p. 32-169).

28.

James Mabli, Nicholas Redel, Rhoda Cohen, et al., "Final Report: Process Evaluation of Older Americans Act Title III-C Nutrition Services Program," Mathematica Policy Research, September 30, 2015, p. 15.

29.

Ibid. pp. 43-44.

30.

Administration for Community Living, "The Older Americans Act Nutrition Program Did You Know…?" May 2015, at http://www.aoa.acl.gov/AoA_Programs/HPW/Nutrition_Services/DOCS/OAA-Nutrition-Program-FAQ.pdf

31.

For more information about the OAA 2016 Reauthorization see CRS Report R44485, Older Americans Act: 2016 Reauthorization.