About a dozen federally supported child nutrition programs and related activities- including the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (the WIC program)- reach over 36 million children and almost 2 million lower-income pregnant and postpartum women.
The School Lunch and School Breakfast programs provide cash subsidies to participating schools and residential child care institutions (RCCIs) for all meals they serve; larger subsidies are granted for free and reduced-price meals served to lower-income children. The Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) subsidizes meals and snacks served by child care centers and day care homes; in centers, higher subsidies are given for meals/snacks served to lower-income children, while subsidies for homes generally are not varied by children’s family income (but are larger for homes in lower-income areas or operated by lower-income providers). Schools, RCCIs, and other public and private nonprofit organizations operating programs for children also can receive subsidies for snacks (and, in some cases, meals) served in after-school and other outside-of-school settings. The Summer Food Service Program subsidizes food service operations by public and private nonprofit sponsors in lower-income areas during the summer; all meals/snacks they serve are subsidized, generally without regard to individual children’s family income. The Special Milk Program operates in schools and RCCIs without a lunch program and subsidizes all milk they serve. All these subsidies are inflation-indexed and are paid only where the subsidized meals/snacks meet federal nutrition standards. In addition to cash aid, many providers receive food commodities from the Agriculture Department, at a set value per meal (and may receive “bonus” commodities from stocks acquired for agricultural support purposes). Grants also are made to help cover state administrative expenses. And, the WIC program provides nutrition services and tailored food packages to lower-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and postpartum women, infants, and children who are judged to be at nutritional risk. Other significant federal programs/activities include: a WIC farmers’ market nutrition program, support for a Food Service Management Institute, and initiatives to improve meal quality, food service, and safety.