Moving and Consolidating Child Nutrition Program State Agencies

Several states have changed or consolidated the agencies that administer various nutrition assistance programs. In seven states, these changes have involved the child nutrition programs. This report summarizes these changes as well as the various reasons for them, which range from concerns around nutrition to promoting state agriculture to streamlining administration to increasing program participation, or some combination of those factors. This report also examines the methods for making these changes and the considerations involved in effective implementation. It is important to note that consolidating the child nutrition programs from multiple agencies into one agency is relatively rare, so it is still difficult to assess the impact. Most of the changes that have occurred to date have simply been moves to a different agency or consolidations of the child nutrition programs with food distribution and commodity programs. Regardless of the type of change, there has been limited examination of the costs and benefits associated with them. Based on research and interviews with officials and advocates familiar with the changes in these seven states, a variety of advantages as well as potential difficulties emerged. Due to the time and expense involved in any agency change, this decision should not be taken lightly. Moreover, agency and program leaders inevitably leave, so it is important to consider whether changes motivated and made by particular leaders could be sustained despite eventual transitions. Still, changing or consolidating agencies has the potential to enhance, streamline, and expand the child nutrition programs, particularly when other efforts to improve leadership and facilitate collaboration have not yielded the desired results.