USDA earmarks $27.6 million for rural pilot projects to combat child hunger

By Whitney Forman-Cook

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, March 2, 2015 - USDA is awarding $27.6 million to five demonstration projects aimed at ending childhood hunger in America.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack made the announcement at today's National Anti-Hunger Policy Conference sponsored by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) and Feeding America.

Lets Talk Food

“The area I am most concerned about (is) rural America,” where 95 percent of the counties with the highest levels of child poverty are located, Vilsack told the conference.

The projects, funded under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, will be tested in Kentucky, Nevada, and Virginia, as well as the Chickasaw and Navajo tribal nations, according to a USDA press release

- The Chickasaw Nation, located in south central Oklahoma, will implement its $9.7 million food delivery program for households with children who quality for free school meals. 

- The Navajo Nation, which spans nearly 27,500 square miles in the Four Corners Region of the Southwest, will use its $2.4 million award to evaluate assets and gaps in food access in parts of the reservation, in addition to providing sign-up assistance to SNAP-eligible families.

- The Virginia Department of Education will be awarded $8.8 million to measure the effect of providing school children three meals a day, as well as food for the weekends, holidays and summers.

-Kentucky will use its $3.6 million award to test the effect of providing households with children additional transportation deductions.

- Nevada's Division of Public and Behavioral Health will assess the relative effects of increased SNAP benefits and outreach with its USDA award of $3.1 million.

Vilsack said the anti-hunger programs are necessary not just for health reasons, but also for economic, national security and moral reasons.

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He said the country is now paying out $14 billion a year to fight obesity-related illnesses, and “if we aren't improving access to quality food, we are going to continue to pay that bill.” 

In addition, “there are too few kids fit for military service,” he said.

As for the moral case, Vilsack said anti-child hunger programs including SNAP, or food stamps, were “not about charity, (but) about community.”

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