On March 2, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced a federally funded program to alleviate the issue of childhood hunger in America.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture will spend $27.6 million on five specific projects and locations, mainly rural areas. States participating in the project include Nevada, Virginia and Kentucky, along with Navajo and Chickasaw tribal nations.
Speaking about the program, Vilsack said, “Too many children in America live in households that don’t always know where their next meal is coming from. Many families are forced to buy cheaper, less healthy foods because they don’t have resources to purchase healthier options, or don’t live close to a store that sells healthy food.”
The most funding, $9.7 million, will go to the Chickasaw nation. Virginia will receive $8.8 million, providing three school meals a day, food on the weekends and during school vacations and additional increases in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamp, benefits for the summer season. Kentucky will get $3.6 million in a plan the government says “may increase their SNAP benefits.” Nevada will receive $3.1 million to test the SNAP program on families who already receive assistance. The Navajo nation will collect $2.4 million to help households find the healthiest and least expensive foods across the area.
The projects are funded by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, created by first lady Michelle Obama. The first lady's initiative has come under heavy criticism by parents and students throughout the country for its strict regulations on what schools may serve students, reducing their portions and offering unappealing foods.
Concerning the USDA’s new program, some politicians do not believe it will help the problem of childhood hunger. Rep. Mike Conaway supported evidence by Professor Douglas Besharov, who teaches courses on poverty alleviation and public policy at the University of Maryland. In his testimony on Feb. 25, Besharov called SNAP a “large and complicated problem.” He also criticized the program’s purpose saying, “A main reason SNAP (formerly the Food Stamp Program) enjoys wide political support is that the public continues to view it as an anti-hunger program when, for many recipients, it is really an income-supplementation program.”
Vilsack supported the opposite view, saying, “I don’t think there’s any understanding or appreciation of the depth of child poverty in many rural areas in this country.”
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