Food and Nutrition
Setting the Context
Families with children experiencing homelessness and unaccompanied homeless youth often experience food insecurity, which means they may not know where they will find their next meal. To help ensure that vulnerable children and youth have access to regular meals, the U.S. federal government funds a variety of food programs, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture's school meals and SNAP/food stamp programs.
School Breakfast Program (SBP) | National School Lunch Program (NSLP)
The Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004 authorizes all of the federal school meal and child nutrition programs, which provide funding to ensure that low-income children have access to healthy and nutritious meals. The Act extends categorical eligibility for child nutrition programs to homeless, runaway, migrant, and foster children and youth. These programs are administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Download the full text of the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004.
Read USDA memos related to free school meals for homeless, runaway, migrant, and foster children and youth.
SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program)/Food Stamps
The SNAP/Food Stamp Program is the largest nutrition assistance program administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The goal of the program is to alleviate hunger and malnutrition by increasing food purchasing power for low-income individuals and families as stated in the Food Stamp Act of 1977, as amended (P.L. 108-269). The program provides monthly benefits to eligible low-income families which can be used to purchase food.
Download the USDA memo entitled SNAP - Clarification of Policies Barriers Facing Homeless Youth.
Download the USDA tip sheet entitled Are you homeless? You might be able to get food help from SNAP!.
Access to Food for Homeless and Highly Mobile Students
This issue brief, developed collaboratively by NAEHCY, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), and the National Center for Homeless Education (NCHE), explains the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Child Nutrition Division (CND) policies regarding eligibility for free school meals for certain homeless, migrant, runaway, and foster students; addresses frequently asked questions about implementing these policies; and offers tools to ensure that these students can access food both inside and outside of school.
Download the brief.