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Tom Vilsack, Secretary, U S Department of Agriculture (USDA), has announced that up to USD2.5 million is available to establish the USDA's Rural Child Poverty Nutrition Center. This competitive grant is part of USDA's efforts to reduce childhood food insecurity in rural communities in America.
Trends show that both the overall rural poverty rate and the rural child poverty rate have exceeded rates in urban areas for over thirty years. In 2012, one out of every four children in rural areas lived in poverty, and 21.2 percent of rural households with children were food insecure. Deep poverty, defined by income that is below 50 percent of the poverty level (USD 1,000 per month for a family of four in 2012) was a reality for one in eight rural children.
"The goal of the center is to reduce child food insecurity by improving access and coordination among child nutrition programs in up to 30 rural communities with persistently high poverty rates,” Vilsack said. "Children living in persistently-poor, rural areas tend to experience worse outcomes in terms of nutrition, activity, and obesity. The Rural Child Poverty Nutrition Center would facilitate innovative strategies to support a healthier next generation in rural America," he added.
The center will develop, administer, and evaluate a series of sub-grants to improve services in these communities. The center will also organize several conferences to exchange lessons learned and develop a report on best practices. The rural communities will use their funds to target child food insecurity through greater coordination of the nutrition programs. For example, communities could use their funds to identify strategies to increase community involvement or to apply more effective uses of technology and digital media to improve program coordination.
This initiative is part of USDA's commitment to growing economies, increasing investments, and creating opportunities in poverty-stricken rural communities. Nearly 85 percent of America's persistent poverty counties are in rural areas. Through the USDA StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity, USDA has supported partnerships and projects in over 700 persistent poverty counties, parishes, boroughs, Colonias and tribal reservations. The USDA Rural Child Poverty Nutrition Center will work cooperatively with USDA's Food and Nutrition Service to issue sub-grants targeting persistently poor rural counties in the 15 states with the largest number of persistently-poor counties. This initiative will target all StrikeForce states, as well as Minnesota and Missouri.
Accredited colleges and universities, as well as private and public research institutions are eligible to apply. USDA's Food and Nutrition Service will select one institution or organization for the award.