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Kevin Concannon

New SNAP Pilot Provides Grocery Delivery for Homebound Disabled, Elderly

Cross-posted from the Disability.gov blog:

Your neighborhood grocer may be conveniently located just a few short blocks away. But for many persons with disabilities and the elderly participating in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the store might as well be on the other side of the world.

It’s a difficult problem that USDA’s new homebound food delivery pilot aims to alleviate, not just for the more than 4 million nonelderly adults with disabilities participating in SNAP, but also for the nearly 5 million seniors, who often face similar challenges and who may face disabilities, as well.

Summer Meals: Fueling Children and Teens to Reach Their Highest Potential

As I travel across the country visiting our nation’s summer meals sites, I am proud of the commitment we’ve collectively made to nourish both the bodies and minds of our country’s children and teens. Schools, recreation centers, places of worship, libraries and other community sites have generously opened their doors to ensure kids receive healthy, balanced meals during the summer months – a time when many low-income families struggle to provide their children nutritious meals and snacks each and every day.

At USDA we’ve long recognized summer as a vulnerable time for kids and have been focused on closing the food security gap that occurs during the months when school is out of session.  Since 2009, more than 1.2 billion meals have been served through the Summer Meal Programs, fueling kids and teens throughout the summer and helping to ensure they are healthy and ready to learn when the school year begins.

USDA Joins Tribal Leaders for Historic Meeting

This February I had the great honor of participating in a meeting on the landscape of nutrition programs in tribal communities.  The meeting in Washington, D.C. brought together elected leaders from 12 tribal nations across the country, as well as USDA Acting Deputy Secretary Michael Scuse and representatives of tribal organizations.

Nutrition wasn’t the only topic on the table that day, as leaders shared with us the wonders and challenges for those living within tribal communities. Elected leaders from as far west as Quinault Nation (along the coast of Washington) to representatives from Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians in northern Michigan, spoke of the beauty and tradition among their tribes, but also shared the challenges experienced by tribal youth, young families, single adults, and respected elders living on Indian reservations.

Concannon: Reauthorize Child Nutrition Programs So They Benefit Children

It may seem like common sense for child nutrition programs to benefit children, but some see it differently today.

Nationwide, schools have made the lunchroom a healthy environment. In fact, in only the second school year of full implementation of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA), over 98 percent of schools participating are already meeting the healthier meal standards.  Students are eating more fruits and vegetables during the school day and more low-income children are eating nutritious breakfasts and lunches at school. And data show obesity rates for some children are leveling off. With all the success of HHFKA, now is not the time to intentionally go backwards on nutrition standards in healthier school meals and to block access to these meals for millions of children.

SNAP-Ed Helps Spur Healthy Choices

March is National Nutrition Month. Throughout the month, USDA will be highlighting results of our efforts to improve access to safe, healthy food for all Americans and supporting the health of our next generation.

Encouraging all Americans to make healthy nutrition and lifestyle choices is a top priority for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). One of the most important ways we do that is through nutrition education provided by USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

SNAP-Ed delivers evidence-based, coordinated nutrition education and obesity prevention services and information to people participating in SNAP, as well as other eligible low-income families and communities.  Activities provided through SNAP-Ed encourage physical activity, work to improve nutrition, and prevent obesity.  These activities may include:

New State of the Art Food Bank Opens in West Texas

March is National Nutrition Month. Throughout the month, USDA will be highlighting results of our efforts to improve access to safe, healthy food for all Americans and supporting the health of our next generation.

West Texans fighting food insecurity have a new resource to combat hunger. The West Texas Food Bank held the grand opening of their new 60,000 square foot location during a recent ceremony in Odessa.

In operation since 1985, the West Texas Food Bank saw the need for food grow exponentially in their communities, requiring them to expand their services. The new facility replaces the East 2nd Street building, and is a first-of-its-kind in West Texas. Thanks to generous donations from area philanthropists committed to fighting hunger locally, the facility will help meet the nutritional needs of more than 31,000 people living in poverty or food insecurity in Midland County, while serving 18 other West Texas counties.  According to the West Texas Food Bank Executive Director, Libby Campbell, the new facility offers more program opportunities for seniors, children, families and the homeless.

Where We've Been and Where We're Going Next

Cross-posted from the Huffington Post:

The United States has always prided itself on lending a helping hand to its citizens in trying times. Throughout our history, when Americans have fallen on hardship, our safety net has stepped in to provide temporary help to those who need it. When I walked into USDA on my first day in 2009, the United States was in the midst of one of the worst economic downturns in our history. Record numbers of people suddenly found themselves and their families in dire circumstances without enough income to make ends meet or put food on the table. At that time of great need, millions turned to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to help them ease their hunger.

Since Secretary Vilsack invited me to join him at USDA as Under Secretary of Food and Nutrition Consumer Services (FNCS) in 2009, not only have we helped to bring America back from the brink of a second economic depression, we have also worked to institutionalize more opportunities and pathways directed at helping states assist consumers and expand direct access to healthy and affordable food.

How the Biggest Changes in Our Nation's Nutrition Programs in a Generation Came to Be, Part I

Cross posted from Secretary Vilsack's Medium page:

More than seven years ago, in one of my very first conversations with newly-elected President Obama, his charge to me was simple: “feed the children and feed them well.”  Today, I’m proud to say that feeding children and supporting families in a time of great need is not only among the greatest domestic policy achievements of USDA under the Obama Administration, it is among my proudest accomplishments as Secretary.

USDA Partners with DOD to Fight Childhood Obesity

Tackling the child obesity epidemic that holds so many health risks for our nation’s youngest members is an important responsibility.  Fortunately, USDA is not alone in this critical charge.

Sound nutrition plays an essential role in all aspects of a child’s life, including their ability to learn, grow and thrive in the classroom.  And since many children today consume half of their daily calories while at school, we want to ensure the healthy choice is the easy choice for them and their families.  Happily, we have partners that feel the same way.

How USDA Celebrated National School Lunch Week

Last week, USDA celebrated National School Lunch Week from October 12 -18 with exciting local events across the country.  It was a chance for USDA staff to meet with students and hear what they think of the newer, fresher options in the lunch room.  It was also an opportunity for USDA officials to say “thank you” to the hardworking school food service professionals who make healthy school lunches possible.

Healthy meals at school are an essential part of every child’s health, development, and academic success.   Students’ ability to learn in the classroom, grow up healthy and reach their fullest potential depends on the environment they learn in.  And that is why Congress passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, so that all our nation’s students can experience a healthier school environment with more nutritious options.