ARCHS' USDA Partnership Promotes Healthy Eating
ARCHS’ Partnership with the USDA and State of Missouri has provided 5,300 St. Louis children in the Saint Louis Public School District (SLPS) access to healthy meals this summer, while making an $804,521 impact on the local economy in Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer for Children (SEBTC) benefits.
SLPS families selected for SEBTC benefits received $60 per month per child in June and July, and a pro-rated amount in May and August based upon the school district’s schedule. The benefits expired when school resumed in August because eligible children will then have free and reduced price meals available during school hours.
Families participating in the ARCHS’ summer program used 93 percent of the funding available to them.
All households in the demonstration areas with children from pre-kindergarten to 12th grade who received free and reduced price meals at school were qualified to be considered for SEBTC. Because this was a demonstration project, some families were randomly selected this spring to receive the benefit and others, who were not selected, participated in surveys. USDA requires the project to be evaluated each year by a national research firm, resulting in a report to Congress.
Using the existing EBT system, this demonstration project tested the most effective way to provide food to low-income children during the summer when school is not in session and children do not have access to school meals. During the summer of 2011, Missouri successfully tested giving benefits to 2,538 children in the Kansas City, Hickman Mills, and Center School Districts, bringing an additional $386,000 into local EBT authorized stores. In 2012, the project was expanded to St. Louis through ARCHS.
As part of the summer program, ARCHS also distributed 5,000 “Sesame Street: Food for Thought” packets to SLPS students last spring. The packets focused on healthy food choices and gave children tips on how to make their own nutritious snacks.
The Missouri project is a collaboration of the Departments of Social Services, Health and Senior Services, Elementary and Secondary Education, ARCHS, the Local Investment Commission (LINC), Saint Louis Public Schools, the Kansas City, Hickman Mills, and Center School Food Authorities.
This is one of the largest demonstration projects undertaken by the USDA. Lessons learned from Missouri’s project will inform decisions at the federal level about how to best address childhood hunger during the summer months when school meals are not available.