Panel Paper: Impact of the Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer for Children Demonstration On Children's Nutritional Status

Friday, November 8, 2013 : 8:20 AM
Thomas Boardroom (Westin Georgetown)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Ronette Briefel1, Ann Collins2 and Anne Wolf2, (1)Mathematica Policy Research, (2)Abt Associates, Inc.
Policymakers have been concerned about the food security and nutrition status of low-income school-age children during the summer, when they do not have access to the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs. The US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) administers the Summer Food Service Program to fill the gap, but it only reaches about 11 percent of children eligible for the school lunch and breakfast programs. To address this gap, the 2010 Agriculture Appropriations Act authorized and provided funding for FNS to implement and rigorously evaluate the Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer for Children (SEBTC) Demonstration. In summer 2012, its second year of operation, this pilot effort implemented demonstrations in 14 urban and rural areas located throughout the country. These areas were identified by States and Indian Tribal Organizations because of perceived hardship.  In 2012, food benefits of approximately $60 per child per summer month were issued using States’ existing EBT technologies for SNAP and WIC programs to approximately 66,800 children from nearly 37,000 households. 

 Abt Associates and Mathematica Policy Research, under contract with FNS, conducted a rigorous experimental evaluation to examine the impact of the demonstration on children’s food security and nutrition status. For the latter, the evaluation estimated the impact of SEBTC on 7 dietary indicators of nutritional status-- servings per day of fruits and vegetables (including and excluding fried potatoes), whole grains, and dairy products; usual choice of nonfat or low-fat milk (vs higher-fat milks); and teaspoons per day of added sugars (total and from sugar-sweetened beverages). The study also compared differences in these nutrition outcomes among households that received benefits that were similar to WIC (i.e., SEBTC benefits that could only be used for a prescribed list of healthful foods) and those that were similar to SNAP (i.e.,benefits that could be used to purchase almost all foods and beverages). Total food expenditures, including reported SNAP benefits and out-of-pocket expenditures and SEBTC benefits (based on EBT transaction data), were also assessed.  

The 2012 year of the study involved randomly assigning over 100,000 households to benefit and non-benefit groups, and interviewing a subsample of 27,000 households in the spring (while school was still in session) and again in the summer. The 2012 evaluation report, which includes findings on nutrition outcomes, is currently under review with FNS and is expected to be cleared in summer 2013.