Updated Statistics Reinforce Academy's Position: Federally Funded Youth Nutrition Assistance Programs are Critical in Ensuring Food Access, Improving Overall Nutrition

August 7, 2018

CHICAGO – Children and adolescents living in households without access to nutritious foods benefit greatly by participating in federally funded nutrition programs, according to an updated position paper by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

According to the position paper "Child and Adolescent Federally Funded Nutrition Assistance Programs," which has been published in the August issue of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:

It is the position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that children and adolescents should have access to safe and healthy foods that promote physical, cognitive, and social growth and development. Federally funded nutrition assistance programs, such as food assistance, meal service, and nutrition education, play a vital role in ensuring that children and adolescents have access to the foods they need and in improving the overall nutrition and health environments of communities.

This paper updates the Academy's 2010 position paper by including updated statistics on the number of children and adolescents living in households with low income and food insecurity; updated research on the impact of food insecurity on child health; and the benefits of nutrition assistance programs for children and adolescents.

"In 2016, an estimated 6.5 million (8.8% children and adolescents in the United States lived in households with low income in which at least one child or adolescent was food insecure," the authors write. "Of these, 298,000 (0.8%) households experienced very low food insecurity where children or adolescents were hungry, skipped a meal or had no food for a whole day."

"Participation in the (federally funded) programs has significantly reduced food insecurity and low food security among households with low income," the authors write.

The Academy advocates for the U.S. federal government to fully fund nutrition assistance programs to help ensure that children and adolescents receive safe, healthy foods that provide adequate energy and nutrients to meet their growth and development needs. In addition, these assistance programs are also designed to teach and encourage participants to choose healthy foods and opt for active lifestyles.

"Children who practice good eating habits and participate in regular activity can maintain a healthy weight, achieve optimal physical and cognitive development and reduce the risk of chronic disease," says registered dietitian nutritionist and Academy Spokesperson Debbie Petitpain.

"Registered dietitian nutritionists and nutrition and dietetic technicians, registered are preeminently qualified to implement and evaluate nutrition assistance programs for children and adolescents," Petitpain says.

The Academy's updated position paper was written by registered dietitian nutritionists Priyanka Ghosh Roy of Northern Illinois University and Theresa Stretch of the Institute of Child Nutrition of the University of Mississippi.


The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is the world's largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. The Academy is committed to improving the nation's health and advancing the profession of dietetics through research, education and advocacy. Visit the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics at eatright.org.