In 2009, 14.7% of U.S. households were insecure, meaning that at some point during the year these households were uncertain of having, or unable to obtain, enough food. In addition to tracking and reporting on hunger in the United States, USDA plays a significant role in helping families acquire food through a myriad of nutrition programs (15 in all), inluding the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and the National School Lunch Program.
An area of USDA support for finding solutions to hunger that may be overlooked is through our National Instutite for Food and Agriculture (NIFA), an agency within the Department that supports research, education and extension programs in the Land-Grant University System and other partner organizations. Last week we annouced eight awards totaling more than $18 million, made through the Agriculture Food and Research Initiative (AFRI), that are supporting local and regional food systems while investigating sustainable solutions to food access within those regions. Here’s a list of the projects: Read more »
USDA ramps up its support for farm to school programs.
The 2008 Farm Bill contained more support for local and regional food systems than ever before, with provisions such as a 5% set-aside within the Rural Development Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan Program and increased funding for the Farmers Market Promotion Program. Farm to school efforts also received significant support as the Bill gave allowance for school districts to apply the option of a “geographic preference” when buying unprocessed locally grown or raised foods. Read more »
Recently, Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan visited Alcorn State University and Mississippi State University as a part of the College Tour, a series of presentations at schools around the country that highlights the relevance of agriculture to our nation’s most pressing issues, including healthy eating, economic development, environmental protection and resource management. For each College Tour stop there is a heavy emphasis on encouraging students to enter the agricultural sector and recruiting talented professionals to come to USDA. While in Mississipi, Deputy Secretary Merrigan worked with her USDA team to host a career fair on each campus after her presentations. Farmweek reports…
USDA Agriculture Marketing Service
Today USDA opened the annual updating of the National Farmers Market Directory. The Directory captures information about where and when farmers markets operate, if they participate in federal nutrition benefit programs, and detailed information about their seasonality and location. It is a great tool for markets to make sure people in their community can find them; in addition to helping people find the closest farmers market, they are included in maps, mobile apps and other stats. Read more »
In an effort to counter rising obesity rates among children, one Montana group is looking to a younger generation to take the lead in bringing locally-grown, nutritious food to schools in the area. The Grow Montana coalition, in conjunction with AmeriCorps, is accepting applications from March 25 to April 22 for a team of 11 FoodCorps members who will develop Farm to School programs in Montana’s food deserts. Because many residents in these areas must drive an hour or more to the nearest grocery store, good nutrition is literally out of reach.
As AmeriCorps VISTA members, the FoodCorps team aims to address this problem by connecting schools with farmers and ranchers to serve healthy, locally-grown meals, building and tending school gardens, and educating students about how and why to eat nutritious foods. Read more »
Last summer, the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), in collaboration with the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), released the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) at Farmers Markets: A How-To-Handbook. The handbook assists farmers’ market operators and direct marketing farmers in determining the steps necessary to become authorized to participate in SNAP and, subsequently, the steps related to managing participation.
It includes tips and guidelines on how to make the program work successfully for vendors and customers. The handbook also features a list of resources, a glossary of important terms, and several case studies from farmers markets that have successfully implemented EBT technology. AMS’s USDA Farmers’ Market Directory is available online to locate farmers’ markets that accept nutrition assistance program benefits. Read more »