Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the USDA Rural Child Poverty Nutrition Center at the University of Kentucky awarded $1.3 million in grants to help reduce child food insecurity in 17 rural communities. The funding, ranging from $50,000 to $100,000, will help these rural communities implement creative strategies to improve access to federal nutrition assistance for families and children. Secretary Vilsack made the announcement during a panel discussion on the current state of food and nutrition in America hosted by the Bipartisan Policy Center.
"Children living in persistently poor rural areas tend to experience worse outcomes in terms of nutrition, activity, and obesity," said USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack. "Despite their critical role in our economy, too many Americans in rural areas are not sharing in our nation's economic growth and, in turn, their children have also been disproportionately affected. These grants will make it possible for children in these areas to access much-needed nutrition assistance and help close the large food insecurity gap between urban and rural communities."
According to the USDA Economic Research Service, one-fourth (25.2 percent) of children in rural areas were considered poor in 2014, compared to about one-fifth (21.1 percent) of urban children. Thriving rural communities are vital to the future of our nation. They provide the vast majority of food, energy, and environmental benefits to the rest of the country; are the source of nearly 90 percent of renewable water resources; and are home to important service sector and manufacturing hubs.
In an effort to bridge this gap for rural children, grantees will use their funds to develop programs and processes that help communities better coordinate existing child nutrition programs and create solutions to target child food insecurity in order to make it easier for children to assistance. For example, Fulton County Schools in Kentucky recognizes that transportation is a barrier for area families. The organization plans to create a mobile system to deliver meals to congregate meal sites in high need areas throughout the county as part of the agency's summer meal program. Summer meal programs funded by the USDA provided meals to students in low-income areas during the summer months when schools are not in session and those students lose access to free and reduced priced meals at school.
Other grantee project examples include:
- Crisp County Community Council (Georgia): The Crisp County Community Council plans to expand the number of summer meal program sites in their community in order to provide more foods to children during summer months when school meal service is absent. The council will also reach out to families with children to increase their awareness of other food assistance programs.
- Summit School District #54-6 (South Dakota): The Summit School District will expand its backpack program to ensure students have access to food when school is not in session. The district will also partner with churches and other nonprofits to implement the summer meal program.
- Texas Hunger Initiative (THI) at Baylor University: THI will develop and support the formation of Child Food Security Stakeholder Councils to recruit new afterschool program sponsors, increase the operating capacity of current child nutrition program sponsors, and increase the availability of school breakfast.
For a full list of grantees and project proposals visit: http://www.fns.usda.gov/usda-rural-child-poverty-nutrition-center-grants-2016
In 2015, USDA selected the University of Kentucky to create the Rural Child Poverty Nutrition Center, which will administer and evaluate the grants awarded today.
This initiative is part of USDA's commitment to growing economies, increasing investments, and creating opportunities in poverty-stricken rural communities. Nearly 85 percent of America's persistent-poverty counties are in rural areas. Through the USDA StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity, USDA has supported partnerships and projects in over 700 persistent-poverty counties, parishes, boroughs, Colonias and tribal reservations.
Over the past seven years, USDA has enhanced federal nutrition programs, providing a critical safety net for millions of American children and families. By expanding access to nutritious foods and increasing awareness about the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, USDA programs have made a real difference in the lives of many, promising a brighter, healthier future for our nation.
March is National Nutrition Month. Throughout the month, USDA will be highlighting results in improving nutrition and reducing food insecurity at www.medium.com/usda-results.