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Federal Food Assistance

The federal government has a number of programs devoted to providing food assistance. These programs are administered and funded through the USDA, with state and local agencies determining eligibility and providing benefits. Eligibility requirements vary between programs, but many are underutilized by eligible Colorado residents.

LiveWell Colorado recommends leveraging these programs to provide healthy food by increased enrollment and use of SNAP benefits, increased use of Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) at farmers’ markets, and statewide participation in the WIC and Senior FMNP. See Policy Recommendations #3, 4 and 5 on page 14-19 of the Food Policy Blueprint.


Case Studies

How the Hunger Free Hotline, a free anti-hunger resource for Coloradoans, was launched.


Major Federal Food Assistance Programs

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly food stamps, provides money each month to low-income families to be used for groceries.  Its funding is reauthorized every five years in the Farm Bill.  It is run by the Colorado Department of Human Services’ Food Assistance Program.

Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) provides food vouchers, nutrition education, and healthcare referrals to qualified women and their children who are at nutritional risk. Its funding is reauthorized every five years in the Child Nutrition Act. It is run by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) provides free meals and snacks to low-income children and elderly adults at day care facilities. Its funding is reauthorized every five years in the Child Nutrition Act. It is run by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) provides commodity food items to low-income households.  It is run by the Colorado Department of Human Services Food Distribution Program.

WIC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) and Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) provide fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables to low-income individuals. Funding is reauthorized every five years in the Farm Bill. The State of Colorado does not currently participate in WIC FMNP. The SFMNP is run by the Colorado Department of Human Services’ State Unit on Aging.

The Older Americans Act (OAA) Nutrition Programs, including the Congregate Nutrition Program and the Home Delivered Meal Nutrition Program, provide nutrient dense prepared meals to older adults at various locations throughout the State, including residences of homebound older adults.  These programs are reauthorized through the Older Americans Act.  They are run by the Colorado Department of Human Services’ State Unit on Aging.

The National School Lunch Program (NSLP), School Breakfast Program (SBP), Summer Food Services Program (SFSP), Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP), Afterschool Care Snack Program, and Special Milk Program provide free and reduced-cost meals and snacks to low-income children at school and during the summer.  These programs are reauthorized every five years in the Child Nutrition Act.  They are run by the Colorado Department of Education’s Office of School Nutrition.


Reports: Research, Articles, & Guides

A Half Empty Plate: Fruit and Vegetable Affordability and Access Challenges in America, a 2011 report published by FRAC looks at the results of a Gallup survey of over one million Americans to measure lack of access to affordable fresh fruits and vegetables.

School Breakfast Scorecard: School Year 2011-2012, a 2013 report published by FRAC, analyzes school breakfast participation among low-income children nationally and in each state and the District of Columbia for the 2011-2012 school year, and discusses effective federal, state, and local strategies for increasing participation in the program.

SNAP and Public Health: The Role of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in Improving the Health and Well-Being of Americans, a report published by FRAC, highlights research demonstrating the role SNAP plays in alleviating poverty and food insecurity and improving dietary intake and health, especially among children.

New England Farmers Union: SNAP Benefits Local Agriculture, an article from Farming Magazine, discusses how SNAP funding and nutritional requirements positively impact farmers.

Nourishing Change: Fulfilling the Right to Food in the US, a report published by the Human Rights Clinic at the NYU School of Law, analyzes the shortcomings of the federal food assistance programs and includes key policy recommendations to strengthen existing food safety nets.


Tools & Technical Assistance

Hunger Free Colorado focuses on making existing federal and local food assistance benefits more accessible through a bilingual hotline, policy advocacy, awareness campaigns, and other innovative strategies.

No Kid Hungry Colorado is a partnership between the Office of the Governor, Share Our Strength, and Hunger Free Colorado focused on making existing food programs more accessible by offering referrals to food pantries, helping with food assistance applications, and training outreach groups.

Nutrition and Wellness Tips for Young Children: Provider Handbook for the Child and Adult Care Food Program, provided by the USDA Food and Nutrition Services section, offers tools and tips for childcare providers, helping them incorporate key recommendations and best practices into menus and daily schedules.

The National Resource Center on Nutrition and Aging (NRC) assists local nutrition programs, national associations, and state and regional agencies with the implementation of the nutrition portions of the Older Americans Act.  Their online library holds a large reserve of publications on subjects from nutrition to public policy for the aging.

The Food Assistance center of the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Services division offers many resources on food assistance from reports and policy updates to programs and implementation.