PHOTO: Steve Patton, UK Agricultural Communications
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack joined Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear and University of Kentucky officials today to announce the establishment of the USDA Rural Child Poverty Nutrition Center at the University of Kentucky in Lexington. The center will use cutting-edge solutions in child nutrition to reduce child food insecurity in states with the highest number of persistently poor rural counties. Currently, about 85 percent of all persistently poor counties in the United States are in rural areas, and children are one of the most vulnerable groups living in rural areas.
"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," said Vilsack. "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."
"This program will target child hunger and poverty in persistently poor rural communities by partnering with agencies who have the resources and expertise to make a difference," said Gov. Beshear. "This program will do more than offer aid. It will attack the root causes of child hunger and poverty."
"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 University of Kentucky Dean Nancy Cox. "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."
With USDA's investment of $2.5 million, the Rural Child Poverty Nutrition Center will administer and evaluate a series of sub-grants targeted to as many as 30 rural areas with high poverty rates in up to 15 states. The communities will use the funds to better coordinate existing child nutrition programs and create solutions to target child food insecurity. The University of Kentucky will partner with Altarum Institute and the Southern Rural Development Center to develop the center.
This announcement is part of the Obama Administration's continuing efforts to combat poverty and food insecurity among children, especially in rural areas. In Kentucky alone, over 26 percent of children live in poverty. In 2014, President Obama designated eastern Kentucky as a Promise Zone, to receive integrated federal efforts to create jobs, increase economic security, expand educational opportunities, increase access to quality, affordable housing and improve public safety through local community partnerships. Seventy-three counties in Kentucky are also part of the USDA's StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity, a strategic approach to addressing the unique set of challenges faced by many of America's poorest rural communities.
USDA's Food and Nutrition Service administers America's nutrition assistance programs, including the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs, the Child and Adult Care Food Program, the Summer Food Service Program, and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). Together these programs make up the federal nutrition safety net. USDA's focus on nutrition and obesity is also an important component of First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! initiative to combat childhood obesity.