Tennessee Offers Programs to Boost Food Security


When people have food security, they have access to safe, nutritious food for a healthy and active life. Communities thrive when there is food security.

Data shows Tennessee is above the national average (17.5%)  in food insecure children (19.7%). You can view the child food insecurity rate broken down by county on this graph.  

School meals help fight child hunger. Children who eat breakfast; 

·         are more likely to consume diets that are adequate or succeed standards for important vitamins and minerals

·         are more likely to consume fruit and milk.

·         Low-income children who eat school breakfast have an overall better diet than those who skip or eat elsewhere.

·         Consuming school breakfast is also associated with lower BMI and a lower likelihood of obesity.

The State of Tennessee has a number of programs to help keep food on everyone’s table. Many moms, mothers-to-be, families and school children qualify for assistance under state or federal food programs.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, provides nutrition assistance to eligible children and families, the elderly, the disabled, unemployed and working families. SNAP helps supplement monthly food budgets of families with low income to buy the food they need to maintain good health. It also allows families to use more of their available income on critical living expenses.

See eligibility information and apply online.

The National School Lunch Program (NSLP)

The National School Lunch Program is a federally assisted meal program available in public and nonprofit private schools and home childcare facilities. The program provides healthy, balanced, low-cost or free lunches to children each school day. 

Federal guidelines determine the nutritional requirements, but local school food authorities decide what to serve and how to serve it.

There is also a companion School Breakfast Program operated by the Food and Nutrition Service. Schools that participate in the NSLP are also eligible to take part in the Afterschool Snack Program.

See eligibility information.

Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)

WIC is a federal program that provides additional food to low-income pregnant, postpartum and breastfeeding women, infants and children until the age of 5. It is also called the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program.

The program provides a combination of nutrition education, supplemental foods, breastfeeding support, and referrals for healthcare. WIC has proved to be effective in preventing and improving nutrition-related health problems.

Summer Food Service Program (SFSP)

Tennessee’s Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) provides free nutritious meals to children 18 and younger in the summer when school is out. The program is designed to reach children who participate in free and reduced-price school lunch programs when those meals aren’t available. SFSP feeding sites are located throughout Tennessee to help meet this need. Sites can be found starting in May.

The Tennessee Department of Human Services (TDHS) is takes applications from organizations to participate in the SFSP program every year. 

Additional Resources

2-1-1 is a free and confidential 24/7 service that helps people across the U.S. find resources in their local community that they need.

The Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) is offered in July and August in Tennessee. The FMNP provides locally grown fruits, vegetables and herbs to families with limited resources.

Hunger and Health’s Feeding America program provides food to people in need through a nationwide network of 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries and meal programs.

Get information on eating healthy on a budget.

Learn more about household food insecurity in the U.S.

Learn more about hunger in America

Learn about Hunger Action Month

Kids Can Receive Free Summer Meals: