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USDA Announces Grants to Stop Hunger

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced yesterday that the agency was awarding grants to end hunger in America.  

According to a press release, USDA will invest in research, planning, and other hunger-relief activities through the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008–or Farm Bill, which includes authorization for $5 million in funding under new Hunger-Free Communities grants.   

One million will fund Planning and Assessment Grants to evaluate food insecurity in communities and develop strategies to become hunger-free. The remaining $4 million will support Implementation Grants for communities that already have a plan to end hunger and need resources for program implementation.

The USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service aims to end food insecurity through awarding grants that will fund activities including food distribution, community outreach, and resource development–activities that will make food more accessible to those most in need.

A 2008 study conducted by USDA showed that 14.6 percent, or 17 million households, were food insecure, meaning that at some time during the year they had difficulty providing enough food for all members due to a lack of resources.  

In April, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Representative Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) introduced legislation to invest $1 billion through loans and grants to combat “food deserts,” or large, isolated geographic areas where mainstream grocery stores and access to fresh produce are absent or distant.

“The available data indicates that residents of … urban food deserts have less access to high quality produce, lean meat, and low fat dairy products.  They necessarily rely on small markets that primarily sell foods with a long shelf-life, instead of fresh fruits, fresh produce, and low fat foods,” wrote Andy Weisbecker in a recent contributed article on food deserts for Food Safety News.

“Hunger is a problem that the American sense of fairness should not tolerate and American ingenuity can overcome,” said Secretary Vilsack. “That’s why we have set the goal of ending childhood hunger by 2015 and support rapid passage of a strong Child Nutrition Reauthorization bill that will reduce hunger and improve the health and nutrition of our Nation’s children. Through these new Hunger-Free Community grants, our strong partnerships at the National, State and local levels will be pivotal in providing better access to food and a more healthful diet for our Nation’s most vulnerable.”

The grants are available to public and not-for-profit organizations through the Food and Nutrition Service and require collaboration with one or more community partners.

Grant applications may be submitted by email to: HungerFreeCommunities@fns.usda.gov or through www.grants.gov.

More Grants from USDA
Also yesterday, USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture released the first Annual Synopsis for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) competitive grants program.  Through the AFRI program, which was also created by the 2008 Farm Bill, USDA awarded more than $176 million in research, education, and extension grants in fiscal year 2009.

“AFRI grants supported several impressive projects in 2009, and we are working hard to ensure these grants have the biggest possible impact this year,” said Roger Beachy, director of the National Institute for Food and Agriculture.

According to a USDA press release, $262 million became available for AFRI grants in March of this year.  Those awarded will go toward five societal issues:  global hunger and food security, childhood obesity, food safety, climate change, and sustainable energy.

Last year, Southern University won a $1 million grant for food safety research related to E. coli, marking the largest individual success for an 1890 land-grant university in the AFRI program. 

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