An Examination of the Los Angeles Summer Food Service Program and its Impact on Children's Dietary Health
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The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) is a free summer lunch program designed to provide children aged 1-18 with at least 1 nutritious meal per day during the summer when school lunch is unavailable. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the relative effect of the program on the daily diets of children in low-income Los Angeles City neighborhoods. Data was collected at five SFSP recreation centers. Surveys were distributed to parents with children participating in SFSP (experimental) and to parents with children not participating in SFSP (control). According to 43.1% of all subjects, fruits and vegetables are cost prohibitive at least some of the time. Additionally, fresh fruits and vegetables are available at fewer than 30% of food establishments within a 2 block perimeter of each site. Although 93.0% of control subjects indicated they would participate in a free lunch program, 80.7% were unaware SFSP existed. The daily servings of fruits and vegetables was not significantly different between experimental and control children (P>0.05). Indeed, 42.3% of all children consume only 1-2 servings/day. Frequency of fast food and soda consumption was not significantly different between groups (P>0.05), but was significantly greater compared to the school year (P<0.05). 35.3% of experimental subjects disagreed that the food served by SFSP is healthier than food served at home. In conclusion, lack of awareness minimizes the potential impact of SFSP in high demand LA neighborhoods and the current program fails to improve the dietary habits of the children it serves.