A Summer Nutrition Benefit Pilot Program and Low-Income Children's Food Security

Publisher: Pediatrics, vol. 141, issue 4
Apr 02, 2018
Authors
Ann M. Collins, Jacob A. Klerman, Ronette Briefel, Gretchen Rowe, Anne R. Gordon, Christopher W. Logan, Anne Wolf, and Stephen H. Bell

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.