This week, Agriculture Under Secretary Kevin Concannon and Anne Alonzo, Administrator for the Agricultural Marketing Service joined George Jones, CEO of Bread for the City to highlight the need for a new Farm Bill that adequately invests in America’s nutrition safety net. Food assistance programs, along with the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program, provide a critical means to provide healthy food for Americans who are working hard but struggling to fill their plate.
Even as our economy recovers and private-sector jobs are added, food security remains a serious problem across the nation. Last year, more than 49 million Americans lived in households that had difficulty putting food on the table.
To help families put healthy food on the table, USDA provides a modern and effective nutrition safety net.
• Over the past year, USDA has helped millions of Americans through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). More than half of SNAP recipients are children and the elderly, and only 8% receive cash welfare.
• At the same time, our efforts to crack down on fraud and abuse while modernizing the SNAP program have led to one of the lowest error rates in history for the program, and a fraud rate of 1.3%.
• We undertook historic improvements to the range of healthy food offered in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC). The program now includes more whole grains, fruits and vegetables – the first comprehensive changes to the WIC program in 30 years – based on expert scientific recommendations.
We’ve modernized the school breakfast and lunch programs to be sure kids are getting the nutrition they need during the school day.
• Every day, 31 million children eat school lunch – and about 13 million of them eat school breakfast. For too many kids, these programs are the only dependable means to get a good meal during the day.
• The modern school lunch and breakfast programs provide more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy while reducing fat, sodium and sugar. The reforms also provide school districts with added flexibility to provide healthier school meals.
We’ve helped America’s food banks and food pantries reduce shortages by providing nutritious food for those in need.
• Just this week, to help support food banks and pantries, USDA purchased 155.6 million pounds of healthy, high quality, domestically-grown fruits and vegetables to be donated through The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP).
• Last year, the program resulted in more than 640 million pounds of extra food in food banks across the nation and added $498 million to the farm economy.
As the recovery continues, no American should be left out when it comes to putting a healthy meal on their table, or providing good food for their children. USDA will continue its focus on providing a modern, sensible and reliable nutrition safety net that puts families first – but to get the job done, Congress must provide a new Food, Farm and Jobs Bill as soon as possible that adequately invests in these critical nutrition assistance programs.
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