Hunger is one of the most pressing problems that America faces today. Even in this country of abundance, the sad reality is that many families lack the necessary resources to feed themselves and their families. Recent increases in food prices and the economic downturn have been among the many factors contributing to the overwhelming need for hunger and nutrition programs. In fact, in Fiscal Year 2011 more than one hundred thousand people in the state of South Dakota were assisted by federally-supported nutrition programs.
As a former National Board Member of Bread for the World, I have long been a strong supporter of federal nutrition programs, including the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) that provides commodities to states for use at local food banks and soup kitchens. I am also a supporter of the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), which provides food and infant formula to pre- and post-natal women and their children. The Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), which provides regular commodity packages to low-income seniors is very important to South Dakota. We have many seniors that would not have proper nutrition without this program. I have also been a long-time advocate of child nutrition programs, such as the National School Breakfast and Lunch Programs, the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP), and the Child and Adult Care Food Program. Now more than ever, we must do all that we can to make sure the food children receive is nutritious, and that they learn early in their lives about the importance of a well-rounded diet and regular exercise.
These, and many other federal nutrition programs, are highly effective and essential in ensuring that America's children, elderly, and vulnerable citizens maintain healthy diets. With obesity quickly becoming an epidemic in our nation, the need for strong nutrition programs is clear. From my seat on the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, I will continue to fight for meaningful funding for these crucial programs.
Considered the cornerstone of the federal nutrition program, the SNAP program, formerly known as “food stamps,” provides assistance to low-income Americans in need or who are making the transition from welfare to work. In order to qualify, applicants must meet certain eligibility requirements and provide information - and verification - about their household circumstances. To see if you qualify for SNAP, click here.
Once qualified, local social service offices provide applicants with a plastic debit card (Dakota EBT card), which electronically holds coupons for certain items such as breads, fruits and meats. The size, income, and allowable expenses of a household or individual determine the quantity of coupons. SNAP lowers the overall price of groceries for low-income Americans allowing them to purchase a reasonable amount of nutritional items. For additional information about SNAP, click here.
The Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program provides benefits such as supplemental nutritious foods, nutrition education as well as certain health, welfare, and social services to low-income pregnant or postpartum mothers with infants or young children (under the age of 5). To be eligible for the program, participants must meet state residency requirements, income guidelines, and be considered "nutritionally at risk" by a health professional. Applicants served in areas where WIC is administered by an Indian Tribal Organization (ITO) must meet residency requirements established by the ITO. To make an appointment, find your nearest WIC office by calling toll free at 1-800-738-2301 or click here.
The Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR) provides food packages to low-income American Indian and non-Indian households living on a reservation or in approved areas near a reservation. In order to qualify, at least one person in the household must be a member of a Federally-recognized tribe. The food packages are provided by the USDA and distributed either by Indian Tribal Organizations or state agencies. Each month, participants receive a food package that contains a selection of over 70 food products that work toward maintaining a balanced diet. For additional information about the FDPIR program, click here.
The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) provides nutritionally balanced meals to students attending public schools, nonprofit private schools and residential child care institutions. Children whose family's income is at or below 130 percent of the Federal poverty level are eligible for free meals, while those with incomes between 130 percent and 185 percent of the poverty level are eligible for reduced-price meals. (For the period of July 1, 2011, through June 30, 2012, 130 percent of the poverty level is $29,055 for a family of four; 185 percent is $41,348.) Families whose incomes exceed 185 percent of poverty pay full price for their meals. The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) of the USDA administers the program at the Federal level. At the State level, the National School Lunch Program is usually administered by State education agencies, which operate the program through agreements with school food authorities. For more information about the National School Lunch Program, click here.
Similar to the National School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program provides breakfast to students attending public schools, nonprofit private schools and residential child care institutions. School breakfasts must meet the applicable recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans which recommended that no more than 30 percent of an individual’s calories come from fat, and less than 10 percent from saturated fat. In addition, breakfasts must provide one-fourth of the Recommended Dietary Allowance for protein, calcium, iron, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and calories. Children from families with incomes at or below 130 percent of the Federal poverty level are eligible for free meals. Those with incomes between 130 percent and 185 percent of the poverty level are eligible for reduced-price meals. (For the period July 1, 2011, through June 30, 2012, 130 percent of the poverty level is $29,055 for a family of four; 185 percent is $41,348.) Families whose income is over 185 percent of poverty pay full price for their breakfast. For more information about the School Breakfast Program, click here.
The Special Milk Program offers pasteurized fluid types of fat free and low-fat (1%) milk to schools, child care institutions, and eligible camps that do not participate in other Federal child nutrition meal programs. As with the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program, families that qualify for free meals would also qualify to receive free milk. For more information about the Special Milk Program, click here.
The Summer Food Service Program provides free, nutritious meals and snacks to children in low-income areas during the summer months when the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs are not available. The program is run by approved sponsors such as school districts, local government agencies, camps, or private nonprofit organizations at central sites like schools or community centers. Children 18 and under as well as persons with disabilities over the age of 18 may receive up to two free meals and snacks a day. These centers are located in areas where at least half of the children come from families with incomes at or below 185 percent of the Federal poverty level. Approved sponsors run the program. For additional information about the Summer Food Service Program, click here.
The Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) provides crucial meals and snacks to child and adult day care centers. The program also ensures that children who live in emergency shelters receive meals and snacks through participating afterschool care programs. Care programs apply to participate in CACFP and social services decides whether to grant the application. Participants from households with incomes at or below 130 percent of poverty are eligible for free meals, whereas participants in centers with household incomes between 130 percent and 185 percent of poverty are eligible for meals at a reduced price. Participant's eligibility is determined by the institution where they receive care. For information about participating as a day care home, child care center or adult care center on the Child and Adult Care Food Program, click here.
The Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) provides low-income senior citizens of at least 60 years old as well as pregnant women and new mothers with access to foods that are typically missing in their diets. This important program is a complement to-not a substitute for-SNAP and Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). Operating in 39 states (including South Dakota), the District of Columbia, and two American Indian reservations (one of which is the Oglala Sioux Reservation in South Dakota), CSFP provides not only a safety net for those who are not eligible for other food assistance programs, but it also serves as an outlet for food commodities acquired by the government for farm support.
The program delivers a basket of nutritious foods to supplement participant's diets. Participants in the Commodity Supplemental Food Program may not participate in the WIC program at the same time that they participate in CSFP. The program is administered by local CSFP or Indian Tribal Organizations. For more information about South Dakota CSFP, click here.
The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) supplements the diets of low-income persons by providing emergency food assistance. The USDA purchases and distributes food to the individual states, whereby local food banks then distribute food to soup kitchens and food pantries. The amount of food a state receives depends on the low-income and unemployed population of the state. States determine what the requirements are for a household to receive food assistance. For more information about the South Dakota TEFAP, click here.