Nutritional Terms

Food insecurity
The limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate foods, including involuntarily cutting back on meals, food portions or not knowing the source of the next meal.

Food security
Access to enough food for an active, healthy life. At a minimum, food security includes: (1) the ready availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods, and (2) an assured ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways (e.g., without resorting to emergency food supplies, scavenging or other coping strategies).

The uneasy or painful sensation caused by a recurrent or involuntary lack of access to food. Many scientists consider hunger to be chronically inadequate nutritional intake due to low incomes (i.e., people do not have to experience pain to be hungry from a nutritional perspective).

A serious health impairment that results from substandard nutrient intake. Malnutrition may result from a lack of food, a chronic shortage of key nutrients, or impaired absorption or metabolism associated with chronic conditions or disease.

An abnormal accumulation of body fat that may result in health impairments. Obesity is generally defined by the National Institutes of Health as having body weight that is more than 20% above the high range for ideal body weight.

The consequence of consuming food that is inadequate in quantity and/or nutritional quality.

Program Terms

After-School Snack Program
The After-School Snack Program provides nutritious snacks and meals to low-income children participating in after-school programs. It is supported by the National School Lunch Program and the Child and Adult Care Food Program.

Child and Adult Care Food Program
The Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) is a federal program that provides healthy meals and snacks to children and adults (elderly people unable to care for themselves) in day care settings.

Commodity Supplemental Food Program
The Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) works to improve the health of low-income children, mothers and people at least 60 years old by supplementing their diets with U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) commodity foods. USDA administers CSFP at the federal level, providing food and administrative funds to states, though not all states participate.

Elderly food programs
Federal nutrition programs that specifically target at-risk elderly people and include home delivered and congregate meal programs, which provide meals at central facilities in group settings.

Emergency food program
Emergency food programs distribute donated food items to hungry people through avenues such as shelters, soup kitchens and food pantries, which usually are supplied by food banks. Such programs typically are run by private, nonprofit community organizations.

Food bank
A charitable organization that solicits, receives, inventories, stores and donates food and grocery products pursuant to grocery industry and appropriate regulatory standards. These products are distributed to charitable human service agencies, which provide the products directly to clients.

Food pantry
Nonprofit organizations (typically small in size), such as religious institutions or social service agencies, that receive donated food items and distribute them to hungry people.

Food Stamp Program
Now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the federal food stamp program serves as our nation’s first line of defense against hunger. It enables low-income families to buy nutritious food with Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards. Food stamp recipients are able to buy eligible food items in authorized retail food stores.

School Lunch and Breakfast Programs
The National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs are federally-assisted meal programs operating in public and nonprofit private schools and residential childcare institutions. They provide nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free meals to children each school day.

Soup Kitchen
An organization whose primary purpose is to provide prepared meals served in a local agency kitchen for hungry people.

Summer Food Service Program
The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) provides reimbursements to schools, local government agencies and community-based organizations for meals and snacks served to children during the summer months. Geared toward low-income children, the SFSP is the single largest federal resource available for local sponsors who want to combine a feeding program with a summer activity program.

Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants & Children (WIC)
WIC provides supplemental nutritious foods, as well as nutrition counseling, to low-income, nutritionally at-risk pregnant women, infants and children up to age 5.

The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP)
Under TEFAP, commodity foods are made available by the USDA to states. States provide the food to local agencies that are selected, usually food banks, which distribute the food to soup kitchens and food pantries that directly serve the public.
This glossary was adapted from the National Anti-Hunger Organizations’ “Blueprint to End Hunger.”

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