By Kevin Concannon, Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services, USDA
Exploring creative avenues to nourish a nation is a great to start any week. And that’s exactly what USDA Deputy Secretary Merrigan and I had the opportunity to do this Monday (May 10, 2010) during the first Wholesome Wave Foundation conference in Washington, DC.
The Wholesome Wave Foundation is a nonprofit organization that, with the help of its partner organizations, provides locally grown food to underserved neighborhoods across the nation. They’ve achieved success through partnership-based programs that serve food deserts in rural and urban communities. And thanks to the important connections they’ve established, their efforts boost the visibility of existing Federal, State and local government agencies that share their values.
Deputy Secretary Merrigan is never an easy act to follow, but the conference did offer a natural forum for issues like childhood obesity and childhood hunger. So a dialogue on the strategies of the First Lady’s Let’s Move! Campaign, the HealthierUS School Challenge, and expanding access to healthy foods at farmers’ markets through SNAP (formerly food stamps) and WIC (the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children) – was enthusiastically embraced.
After the presentation, I was fortunate enough to meet a number of community leaders and stakeholders attending the conference, including an impressive group of farmers’ market operators in Maine – a place I have worked, lived, and known fondly for years. Next, I spoke with media on Child Nutrition Reauthorization, SNAP EBT cards, and the impressive strides recently made in Texas to provide nutrition assistance benefits to their most vulnerable citizens.
The foundation’s hallmark Double Value Coupon Program encourages the purchase of fresh fruits and vegetables by doubling the value of SNAP/food stamp dollars at participating farmers’ markets throughout the country. It’s an innovative idea, and one that shares our mission of fostering a healthier nation for all.