Other Food Assistance Programs

While WIC is available to qualifying low-income women and their infants and children, several other programs under the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) and the USDA are available to families who meet eligibility requirements.

These include the School Breakfast Program for households with school-aged children and the Supplemental Food Program for low-income seniors who are at least 60 years of age. By supplementing the diets of low-income beneficiaries, qualifying seniors, women and children can purchase healthy food items for themselves and their households.

Moreover, the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program is available to elderly low-income citizens. Through this program, elderly beneficiaries receive coupons that can be used to purchase eligible fruits, vegetables and herbs from participating farmers markets, roadside stands and community-supported agriculture programs (CSAs). To learn more about these different food assistance programs for low-income households, review the sections below.

The WIC Program for Women and Young Children

WIC is a temporary food assistance program that benefits qualifying pregnant, breastfeeding and postpartum women as well as infants and children who reside in low-income households. Beneficiaries typically receive this type of assistance from anywhere between six months and up to one year. At the end of the certification period, qualifying beneficiaries may reapply if they wish to extend their benefits.

Moreover, applicants must meet several WIC eligibility requirements if they wish to enroll in this program. For instance, these include categorical, residential, income and nutrition risk requirements. However, this short-term program is meant to serve needy women and children, especially those with serious medical conditions. For instance, breastfeeding women would meet the categorical requirement, but they would also need to meet income, nutrition risk and residential requirements.

To apply, families must contact the WIC office in their state of residence to apply for participation in this food assistance program. In most cases, these offices include the State Department of Health, the Department of Health and Social Services, or the Department of Public Health.

The Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program

This Farmers Market Nutrition Program provides low-income seniors with coupons that can be used to purchase fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs and honey from local CSAs, farmers markets and roadside stands throughout the U.S. During the 2015 fiscal year, the program assisted 817,751 qualifying seniors throughout the country, while also helping to support local farmers. As part of the program, however, seniors may not use their vouchers to purchase dried fruits and vegetables, maple syrup, nuts, wild rice, or potted herbs.

Related Article: Food Stamps and Farmers Markets

To qualify for SFMNP benefits, seniors must be at least 60 years of age and their household income must not exceed 185 percent of the federal poverty level. In some states, beneficiaries of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or other food assistance programs may qualify for this type of aid as well. However, proof of receiving benefits under these other programs is generally needed.

While this Farmers Market Nutrition Program is not available in all states, 52 State Agencies, including those in California, Florida, New York and Texas do provide qualifying residents with these benefits. Additionally, several U.S. Territories and federally-recognized Indian Tribal Organizations (ITOs) are authorized to participate in the program.

The School Breakfast Program

The National School Breakfast Program (SBP) is available to qualifying children who reside in low-income households. To qualify for free or low-cost breakfasts under this program, school-aged children must reside in a household whose income falls below 130 percent of the federal poverty level, or they must qualify for another food assistance program such as SNAP. Additionally, foster children, members of the Head Start Program, and homeless, runaway or migrant children will also qualify for program enrollment.

The National School Lunch Program

The School Lunch Program provides qualifying children with free or low-cost lunches, helping them to maintain a nutritious, well-balanced diet. While many eligible children receive free lunches through this program, others pay as little as $0.40 per lunch. To qualify for program enrollment, however, children must be eligible for SNAP benefits or they must be homeless, migrant or in foster care.

To qualify for full NSLP benefits, children must reside in homes with incomes of less than 130 percent of the federal poverty level, while reduced-fee lunches are available to children who live in households with incomes that range between 130 and 185 percent of the federal poverty level.

The Summer Lunch Program

The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) provides low-income children and teens with nutritious meal options during their summer break from school. These free meals are available to children through local meal service sites such as nonprofit organizations, government agencies, schools, camps and community centers. Most sites are available in low-income communities where at least half of the children reside in homes with an income of less than 185 percent of the federal poverty level.

To qualify for the Summer Lunch Program, children must be younger than 18 years of age, or they must be older than 18 years of age and have a physical or mental disability. In most cases, qualifying children receive between two and three free meals per day during the summer months, depending on the specific situation.

The Commodity Supplemental Food Program

The Commodity Food Program (known as CSFP) helps to supplement the diets and improve the health of qualifying seniors who are at least 60 years of age. Through the program, qualifying beneficiaries receive packaged food items such as cereal, pasta, dry beans, and rice, as well as juice, milk and canned meat. As part of the 2014 Farm Bill, certain women, infants and children may continue to receive benefits under this program until they are no longer eligible to do so. However, households cannot obtain WIC benefits while participating in this assistance program, and CSFP is not available to residents of all states.

To qualify for the commodity supplemental food program for seniors, an applicant must meet income restrictions as well. While these restrictions vary depending on the size of the applicant’s household, a senior’s household income must not exceed 130 percent of the federal poverty level. For a two-person household, for instance, the senior’s weekly income may not exceed $412. For a three-person household, the weekly income limit is $520. In some states, seniors may need to meet nutrition risk requirements as well.

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