WASHINGTON, March 19, 2015 – The USDA will be embarking on a new partnership with the University of Kentucky to reduce child hunger in poor, rural areas of the state and up to 15 other states as well.

"The Rural Child Poverty Nutrition Center underscores this Administration's focus on addressing poverty and food insecurity among children in rural areas where hunger and obesity are too common," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a release. "The center will make it possible for children in rural areas to access much-needed nutrition assistance and help close the large food insecurity gap between urban and rural communities."

The USDA will contribute $2.5 million to establish the center, which will be located at the University of Kentucky in Lexington. It will support child nutrition programs and efforts to alleviate child food insecurity in up to 30 poor, rural communities.

The University of Kentucky will develop the facility in collaboration with the Altarum Institute – a non-profit health research and consulting firm – and the Southern Rural Development Center – another USDA Regional Rural Development Center stationed at Mississippi State University.

"In the UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, part of our core mission as a land grant institution is to improve the lives of our citizens," said Nancy Cox, the agriculture college’s dean at the University of Kentucky. "We are honored the USDA has chosen us to be their partner in this extremely important endeavor to reduce child food insecurity in persistently poor rural counties in Kentucky and several other states."

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About 85 percent of impoverished counties in the U.S. are rural, the USDA said, and in Kentucky alone, more than 1 in 4 children live in poverty. This partnership will help improve those children’s access to food, government services and jobs, in addition to existing rural initiatives, according to the department.

For instance, 73 Kentucky counties currently receive programmatic support through USDA's StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity, a program that has invested $16 billion in job creation, improving food access for children and assisting farmers in economically-depressed rural areas, USDA said.

President Obama also designated eastern Kentucky a Promise Zone in 2014. Promise Zones – which are targeted specifically in high-poverty urban, rural and tribal areas of the U.S – are prioritized for integrated federal support and assistance, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.


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