Ending Childhood Hunger: Evaluation of Demonstration Projects

Prepared for
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service
young girl eating school lunch


The Childhood Hunger Demonstration projects and the associated evaluation will address mounting concerns about the effects of poverty and food insecurity on low-income children and their families. In the United States, millions of children live in families that have had to worry about access to food. National food security policy aims to ensure that all Americans, especially children, have access to a healthy diet whether at home or at school.

Mathematica is evaluating innovative strategies to reduce hunger in low-income households with children. The study was mandated in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 and includes five federally funded demonstration projects that target areas or low-income populations with elevated risk of childhood food insecurity. The primary goal is to reduce the prevalence of food insecurity among children.

The strategies to be tested include enhanced Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits for eligible households with children; enhanced benefits or innovative program delivery models for meals and snacks provided in schools or to homes; and strategies that target increasing participation in other federal, state, or local assistance programs. The evaluation includes a rigorous impact analysis of each demonstration project as well as implementation and cost-effectiveness analyses, and will facilitate cross-site comparisons. The impact analysis will use a random assignment design to compare food security outcomes between respondents receiving benefits with those not receiving benefits at a 12 month follow up. The evaluation will also examine the demonstration projects' impact on participation in nutrition assistance programs, as well as food shopping and spending. Each demonstration project is described briefly below:

  • Chickasaw Nation: The Chickasaw Nation will implement Packed Promise, which will provide food and nutrition education materials through home delivery, plus vouchers for purchase of fresh fruits and vegetables to households with children who qualify for free school meals.

  • Kentucky: The Commonwealth of Kentucky will implement the Ticket to Healthy Food SNAP Demonstration, which will provide households (with children) with additional transportation deductions in the calculation of household SNAP benefits. In this project, all households eligible for the demonstration will receive a fixed transportation deduction, and all households eligible for the demonstration that report any earned income will also receive an enhanced earned income deduction equal to 10 percent of earned income.

  • Nevada: The Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health will implement the SNAP Enhancement (SNAP-E) Demonstration Project that will increase households’ SNAP benefits, and in some cases provide households with additional outreach, education, and case management.

  • Navajo Nation: The Navajo Nation Division of Health will implement the Food Access Navigation Project, which will hire Food Access Navigators to evaluate assets and gaps in food access infrastructure. The project aims to increase the number of school breakfast and afterschool food programs by 30-50 percent and the number of summer food sites by 25 percent.

  • Virginia: The Virginia Department of Education will implement the Virginia Hunger-Free Kids Act Demonstration Project in which schools will serve three meals a day to all children during the school year and provide food backpacks for weekends and school breaks. In addition, the project will extend an enhanced SNAP benefit or electronic benefits transfer (EBT) card during the summer months to low-income households.

To read more about the USDA initiative to end childhood hunger, see FNS's press release.