Participation in the Women Infants and Children program has plummeted by 25 percent this decade, reaching the point that only 3 of every 5 eligible people apply for the supplemental food and health care referrals offered to low-income pregnant women, new mothers and their offspring up to age 5. In a report issued today, the anti-hunger Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) spelled out dozens of ways for government agencies, grocers, schools and nutrition activists could remove barriers and maximize enrollment.
The Department of Agriculture issued a proposed rule Friday that would ease the standards for how many and what types of products food retailers must stock in order to accept SNAP benefits at their stores. An Obama-era rule had expanded the amount of healthy foods that retailers had to stock in order to participate in the program.
Breakfast participation rates at U.S. schools rose in the 2017-18 school year, and a report issued Wednesday by the Food Research & Action Center attributed that increase to decisions by schools to serve breakfast in classrooms and to offer meals to all pupils free of charge.
Compared to the long-established school lunch program, after-school programs that provide snacks or supper to pupils are tiny. In fact, just 1.2 million suppers, versus 30 million lunches, are served in school each day.
Roughly 37 percent of U.S. adults eat fast food daily, says a CDC analysis of dietary data, but the rate is much higher for men and women aged 20-39 and for higher-income people. "Fast food consumption has been associated with increased intake of calories, fat, and sodium," says the CDC, which estimates adult Americans get 11 percent of their calories from fast food.
A new report from the Food Research and Action Center found that the food hardship rate for households across the country has increased from 15.1 percent in 2016 to 15.7 percent in 2017. The rate increase was higher for households with children, from 17.5 percent to 18.4 percent. The study comes as wages remain stagnant, despite falling unemployment.
The biggest threat to school lunch and school breakfast, the federally funded programs that feed more than 30 million pupils daily, is legislation that doesn't exist at the moment but could easily be proposed as a deficit-cutting tool, says the School Nutrition Association. The group, which speaks for school food directors, put opposition to block grants at the top of its list of congressional goals this year.
There are federal predecessors to the Trump administration's "Harvest Box" proposal, to provide half of food-stamp benefits in the form of a box of processed and packaged foods, says the NPR blog The Salt. "Among those horrified at the thought: American Indians who recognized this as the same type of federal food assistance that tribes have received for decades, with devastating implications for health."
About half as many children take part in the school breakfast program as the more than 30 million who eat a hot meal through the school lunch program, according to USDA's most recent data. The government and the anti-hunger group Food Research and Action Center say that participation in school breakfast grew at a slower rate during the 2016-17 school year than it did in previous years.
A food service management company that operates in 600 U.S. school districts is offering them, in the words of its vice president for nutrition, “instructions” on how to get a waiver from the USDA requirement to serve whole-grain-rich bread, pasta, and baked goods to their students, said The Lunch Tray.