These programs are federally assisted meal programs operating in public and nonprofit private schools and residential child care institutions. They provide nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free meals to children each school day.
A nonprofit organization typically small in size, such as a faith-based institution or social service agency, that receives donated food items and provides prepared meals served in a local agency kitchen for hungry children. By contrast, a food pantry does not serve prepared meals. A soup kitchen will often receive its supply of food from a food bank.
WIC serves to safeguard the health of low-income women, infants and children up to age 5 who are at nutritional risk by providing nutritious foods to supplement diets, information on healthy eating and referrals to health care. WIC is administered by the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), a subagency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Formerly referred to as the federal Food Stamp Program, SNAP serves as the first line of defense against hunger. It enables low-income families to buy nutritious food with Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards. Recipients are able to buy eligible food items in authorized retail food stores. The program is the cornerstone of the federal food assistance programs and provides crucial support to low-income households and those making the transition from welfare to work. It has been criticized, however, for being underfunded, inadequate in terms of benefits offered, and ineffective in reaching and including all of the low-income people at risk of hunger. Hunger relief organizations like Long Island Cares help to make up the shortfall.