A Summer Nutrition Benefit Pilot Program and Low-Income Children's Food Security
Background. Federal summer meals programs serve less than one-sixth of children that receive free or reduced-price meals during the school year. To address this gap in food assistance for school-aged children, the Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer for Children (SEBTC) Demonstrations provided summer food assistance in the form of electronic benefits transfer cards to households with school-aged children certified for free or reduced-price meals during the school year.
Methods. Over 2011–2013, the SEBTC demonstrations were evaluated by using a random assignment design. Households were randomly assigned a monthly $60-per-child benefit, a monthly $30-per-child benefit, or no benefit, depending on the study year. Key outcomes included children’s food security and consumption of foods and food groups related to a healthful diet (diet quality). At baseline (in the spring) and again in the summer, the evaluation surveyed ∼52 000 households over the course of the 3 years of the impact study.
Results. SEBTC reduced the prevalence of very low food security among children by one-third. It also had positive impacts on 6 of the 8 child nutrition outcomes measured (amounts of fruits and vegetables; whole grains; dairy foods; and added sugars).
Conclusions. SEBTC is a promising model to improve food security and the dietary quality of low-income school-aged children in the summer months.