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Equitable Systems

equitable support

Prioritizing Equity Every Step of the Way

Disparities in diet-related diseases are rooted in long-standing historical inequities. To help tackle these systemic issues, USDA is advancing nutrition security in an equitable way that supports resilient, sustainable food systems for all. USDA’s efforts support President Biden’s directive to pursue comprehensive approaches to advance equity for all, including people of color and others who have been historically underserved, marginalized, and adversely affected by persistent poverty and inequality.

Read USDA Nutrition Security Blogs on Equitable Systems

Strengthening support to Native American/Tribal school food programs

School-Age Children
  • FNS is collaborating with the Institute of Child Nutrition to identify training and resource needs for school nutrition professionals working with Tribal nations and communities. USDA’s Office of Tribal Relations also recently launched the Indigenous Food Sovereignty Initiative, which promotes traditional food ways, Indian Country food and agriculture markets, and Indigenous health through foods tailored to American Indian/Alaska Native dietary needs.

Expanding online shopping options for SNAP and WIC participants

Mothers, Infants, and Young Children
All Life Stages
  • People who live in food deserts have limited access to affordable, nutritious food. Online ordering is a way to help expand access to healthy food for these individuals. It also helps break down barriers for marginalized communities who fear facing discrimination or stigma with in-person shopping. As of August 2022, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits can be used online in 49 States and the District of Columbia, and we continue to work closely with our partners to add more States and retailers to increase convenience. A grantee will soon provide robust technical assistance to smaller SNAP retailers to help them make informed decisions about online SNAP payments.
  • Prospective 2022 Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP) grantees may propose projects that allow SNAP recipients to use their GusNIP incentives to purchase and/or order fruit and vegetables online.

Bridging language barriers to nutrition education resources and recipes

Mothers, Infants, and Young Children
School-Age Children
  • The USDA Food and Nutrition Service’s Team Nutrition Initiative has a growing collection of more than 407 nutrition education and training resources and continues to expand access to resources in languages other than English. Currently, more than 136 resources and 40 recipes are available in Spanish, and work is underway to provide Spanish language pages for the entire Team Nutrition website.
  • Team Nutrition is also working with the Institute of Child Nutrition to launch a Spanish-language version of the popular Child Nutrition Recipe Box for schools and child care providers.
All Life Stages
  • MiPlato en Espanol webpages offer digital MyPlate tools, recipes, handouts, print materials, graphics and other consumer resources in Spanish.
  • The Start Simple with MyPlate tip sheet will soon be available in 21 languages.
  • Nutrition.gov En Español provides credible Spanish-language nutrition information from federal and Cooperative Extension System sources to help consumers make healthful eating choices. The “Español” language toggle at the top right corner of every webpage allows for visibility and access to Spanish-language information from any of the English pages.
  • Spanish-language resources, including figures and graphs for health professionals, are available on DietaryGuidelines.gov.

Reaching underserved populations

Mothers, Infants, and Young Children
  • With funding provided through the American Rescue Plan for outreach, innovation, and program modernization in the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) will reintroduce WIC through a national WIC public health outreach campaign that leverages innovative strategies to reach more WIC-eligible individuals and increases public awareness of the health and nutrition benefits of the program.
  • ARPA funding will also allow the FNS to support, pilot, and test community-based outreach and engagement strategies to increase WIC participation. A Cooperative Agreement of up to $20 million will be awarded in 2022 to test new ways of connecting with potential and current WIC participants. Funding will test community-based outreach strategies that aim to increase WIC participation and retention. It will also expand partnerships with community-based organizations to connect underserved populations with WIC benefits and services.
  • With American Rescue Plan funding and waiver authority, FNS and the U.S. Digital Service (USDS) will launch an initiative to transform WIC business practices and implement technology tools to improve and streamline the participant experience. A grant opportunity is expected to be announced to State agencies in FY 2022 to support efforts that aim to improve the WIC participant experience through technology, as evidenced by increasing participant enrollment and retention while improving equity.
  • FNS supports a diverse WIC workforce. American Rescue Plan Funding will be used to establish a formal partnership with the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to develop and implement a national strategy for WIC that will provide workforce development and advancement pipelines to support WIC staff and ensure skilled and culturally relevant care for WIC families.
All Life Stages
  • Access to food can be difficult or out of reach for some historically underserved or marginalized populations. The USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is working to support efforts to expand the reach of the emergency food network in remote, rural, Tribal, and/or low-income areas underserved by the program through the $100 million TEFAP Reach and Resiliency Grants. We are also working with Puerto Rico, the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa to ensure their nutrition assistance programs address their needs and preferences.
  • USDA will add two additional Tribal nations to the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) in 2022 to support the caseload requested by State agencies. CSFP is an important program in the nutrition safety net for low-income seniors but has limited reach due to a caseload-based funding structure. Supporting State agency caseloads helps to bring more low-income seniors into the program.
  • USDA is improving access to foods acceptable to individuals following kosher or halal dietary laws through The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP). USDA engages with key advocacy organizations serving Jewish and Muslim communities, as well as select State and food bank partners on these efforts.
  • USDA will conduct a follow up study called Assessing the Nutritional Quality of the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR) Food Package to estimate the nutritional quality of the FDPIR food package as offered and as delivered and compare to the previous 2014 analysis. Nutritional quality of the food package will be measured using the Healthy Eating Index (HEI) scoring algorithm.
  • The Community Facilities Program offers direct loans, loan guarantees, and grants to develop or improve essential public services and facilities in communities across rural America. Grantees can use the funds to construct, expand, or improve facilities that help provide healthy, safe, affordable food such as food banks, nonprofit food warehouses, community kitchens, community gardens, and vehicles for delivering meals to the elderly. These facilities not only improve nutrition security, but also the development and sustainability of rural America.
  • The Emergency Rural Health Care Grants are designed to support immediate health care needs, prepare for a future pandemic event, increase access to quality health care services, and support food assistance through food banks and food distribution facilities. The American Rescue Plan Act provided $500 million for these projects, which are also intended to support the long-term sustainability for rural health care.
  • Through the Healthy Food Financing Initiative, USDA provides grants and technical assistance to grocery stores and other food enterprises to improve access to fresh, healthy food in underserved areas. Grants can be used for brick and mortar facilities, equipment needs, and one-time costs, including training and marketing. USDA has deployed $4.4 million in grants to 30 projects across the country, creating more than 460 permanent jobs and 182,750 square feet of brick and mortar space to sell, store, or distribute food for underserved areas.
  • USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture administers several programs that help reach underserved populations and help nurture workforce development among students from underserved populations. Key program include the 1890 Land-Grant Institution Programs, which support historically Black universities to strengthen research, extension, and teaching in food and agricultural sciences; the Federally Recognized Tribes Extension Program, which funds extension programs on American Indian Reservations and Tribal jurisdictions that address the unique needs and programs of American Indian Tribal Nations; and the Hispanic-Serving Institutions Education Grants Program, which supports higher education programs in food and agricultural sciences.

Bringing together diverse partners to foster healthy food options

School-Age Children
  • Farm to school activities help school communities identify local food producers, establish connections that get local food into school meal programs, and teach children where food comes from. They even inspire youth towards careers in agriculture. Since the farm to school program started in 2013, USDA has awarded nearly $64 million, funding almost 900 projects across all 50 States, D.C., U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and Puerto Rico, reaching over 22 million students in more than 54,000 schools.
  • The 4-H Youth Development Program serves as a model program for positive youth development and creates positive learning experiences, including nutrition education.
  • The Children, Youth and Families at Risk grant program provides resources to land-grant university cooperative extensions so they can develop and deliver collaborative educational programs that equip at-risk youth with the skills they need to lead positive, productive lives, including education on eating healthy.
All Life Stages
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed)’s multisector partnerships have a meaningful impact on local food policies and systems. Partners who understand the lived experiences of their communities can come together to advance access and equity in nutrition security in a way that works best for those they serve. For example, during the pandemic, groups of farmers, producers, healthcare, and charitable organizations formed “food hubs” to distribute locally grown, nutritious foods.
  • The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program develops and offers education, training, outreach, and mentoring programs to enhance the sustainability of the next generation of farmers, including how to grow more nutritious foods.
  • The Enhancing Agricultural Opportunities for Military Veterans Program provides grants to non-profit organizations to increase the number of military veterans gaining knowledge and skills through comprehensive, hands-on, and immersive farm and ranch programs that lead to successful careers in the food and agricultural sector.
  • USDA is coordinating closely with FDA on their Closer to Zero Initiative, which aims to reduce exposure to arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury in foods eaten by babies and young children.
  • The USDA Office of the Chief Scientist co-leads the United States Government’s Global Food Security Research Strategy with the U.S. Agency for International Development. This strategy takes a whole-of-government approach across 11 partner agencies and departments to achieve sustainable, global reductions of poverty, hunger, and malnutrition.