USDA to Provide $2b in Food Aid to Combat Growing Food Insecurity Across US

The U.S. Department of Agriculture plans to provide $2 billion in food aid to food banks and school districts to help feed children and families who may be struggling to afford enough nutritious food.  This comes amid fast-rising food prices, especially for fresh fruits and vegetables, and increases in food insecurity across the country.

Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, usage of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) increased by over 4 million recipients – all participants were allotted maximum benefits. Emergency funds for food aid will likely end within the next few months of 2022, which would lead to substantial decreases in monthly assistance. The Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) estimates that “41 million SNAP recipients will lose an average of $82 in food benefits per month and some households will see benefits drop by as much as $200 per month.”

The USDA said that the funds are part of its “emergency food assistance” program, which provides money to government agencies and nonprofits to help low-income people buy groceries. The funds will come from the Commodity Credit Corporation, a government agency that provides loans to farmers.

These funds will go toward supporting school meal programs as well as providing assistance for food banks that have seen demand skyrocket since the pandemic started. The agency said it would also increase funding for community projects focused on nutrition education and healthy eating habits by $10 million over last year’s budget, bringing total funding up to $30 million nationwide.

Task Force Informs White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health

On September 28th, 2022, the Biden administration will hold the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health. This will be the second conference of its kind in the United States, with the last being held in 1969. The main goal of this conference is “ending hunger, improving nutrition and physical activity, and reducing diet-related diseases and disparities” by 2030.

Millions of U.S. citizens are afflicted by food insecurity and diet-related diseases, such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. This leads to high rates of morbidity associated with modifiable lifestyle factors. Hunger and diet-related diseases impact underserved populations at a disproportionately higher rate and are associated with a lack of access to safe, affordable, and healthy food and housing.

A recent report, entitled Informing the White House Conference: Ambitious, Actionable Recommendations to End Hunger, Advance Nutrition, and Improve Health in the United States, details specific ways in which the U.S. government can act and change to reach the 2030 goal. This report was created by an independent task force comprised of experts across fields including nutrition, medicine, food policy, business, agriculture, and health advocacy.

The policy and health information in the above report is distilled in this NPR article. It explains the following 7 ideas to help shift the normal American diet toward a healthier and more sustainable future:

  1. Treat food as medicine
  2. Focus on quality of calories, not just quantity
  3. Expand access to dietary and lifestyle counseling
  4. Support food entrepreneurs
  5. Increase the number of new farmers growing healthy foods using regenerative farming techniques
  6. Make school meals free for all students
  7. Establish a federal ‘food czar’

 

For background, details, and quotes from the task force, read the full NPR article: The U.S. diet is deadly. Here are 7 ideas to get Americans eating healthier.