Welfare Reform:

Effects of Changes Made to the Summer Food Service Program

T-RCED-98-120: Published: Mar 10, 1998. Publicly Released: Mar 10, 1998.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reported on the changes made to the Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Summer Food Service Program, focusing on the: (1) effects these changes had on the number of sponsors and children participating in the program in 1997; and (2) potential effect of the reduced subsidies for the future.

GAO noted that: (1) the reduction in federal subsidies for sponsors did not have a significant effect on the number of program sponsors or children participating in 1997; (2) state officials specifically identified only a handful of 1996 sponsors that stopped participating in the program in 1997 because of the reduced subsidies, and the number of children participating in the program was generally not affected; (3) however, almost half of the states reported that the program was affected in other ways, such as sponsors' reducing the number of food items in the meals provided or reducing the number of locations where meals were served; (4) while the number of sponsors and children participating changed only minimally in 1997, both the USDA and the majority of the states expect to see a decrease in the number of sponsors and in the number of children participating over the future because of the reduced subsidies; (5) USDA and several state officials said that some sponsors continued their participation in 1997 to test whether they could finally manage the program with the reduced rate; (6) USDA officials expect that sponsors that could not manage the program with the reduced rates will leave it in future years; and (7) on the other hand, USDA and some state officials said that other factors such as increased outreach efforts and state funding could mitigate the effects of the rate decrease on the number of sponsors and children participating in the future.

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