The same year astronauts set foot on the moon, USDA launched its own massive project to benefit the American people -- the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS).
This morning, former and current FNS employees gathered alongside USDA and Congressional leaders to mark the 40th anniversary of the agency's fight against hunger in the U.S. and abroad. FNS administers the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Women, Infants and Children program (WIC) food assistance programs, as well as school lunch and breakfast -- programs which have touched the lives of millions of Americans over the last four decades.
Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan congratulated the agency and its employees, and outlined the Obama administration's goal to end hunger in America by 2015. She pointed out the impact school nutrition programs have had -- 170 billion lunches and 33 billion breakfasts have been served in public schools over the last 40 years -- as well as the vast expansion over time of the agency's mission (SNAP, which served about 3 million Americans each month in 1969, now serves more than 34 million each month).
After viewing a video message from Secretary Tom Vilsack, the crowd heard from Representatives James McGovern and Jo Ann Emerson, along with Robert Greenstein, Director of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. We were also joined by FNS Administrator Julie Paradis, who introduced a commemorative video of the agency's last 40 years, and Deputy Under Secretary Janey Thornton.
(Video content from the event will be made available later today).