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Agriculture Secretary Calls on Communities to Help Ensure Children Have Access to Healthy Food Year Round

SAN DIEGO, April 18, 2013 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today highlighted the problem of increased childhood hunger during months when school is not in session. At an event at Colina Del Sol Recreation Center, he called on communities across the country to partner with USDA's Summer Food Service Program to ensure that no child goes hungry when school is out. Vilsack reiterated the vital role of partners in reaching eligible children and their families and challenged them to help USDA serve 5 million more meals this summer.

"When school lets out, millions of low-income children no longer get a healthy breakfast or lunch, but USDA's summer meals program helps to fill that gap and is an invaluable investment in the future of America's children," said Vilsack. "Poor nutrition during the summer months can have a negative impact on a child's health, as well as their academic performance during the school year. Communities across the nation can work with us to ensure that all children have access to healthy foods, all year long."

In order to reach more eligible children, USDA is working with local governments, faith and community groups, and various partners to fill the summer meals gap. USDA is providing intensive technical assistance to expand the reach of the program in California, as well as four other states (Arkansas, Colorado, Rhode Island and Virginia) due to high levels of rural or urban food insecurity and historically low program participation rates.

Vilsack applauded the work of the Colina Del Sol Recreation Center, which partners with the San Diego Unified School District to provide meals to children in need during the summer, as well as throughout the intersession periods for year-round schools.

USDA's summer meals programs operate through partnerships between USDA, state agencies and local organizations. Local sponsors, such as schools, local government agencies, faith-based and nonprofit community organizations, and residential and non-residential camps provide free meals and activities to eligible low-income children during the summer months. In 2012, USDA's partners served 144 million summer meals at 38,800 sites, feeding approximately 2.3 million children on a typical summer day. For more information on becoming a SFSP sponsor or site, visit http://www.fns.usda.gov/sfsp/. To find a site in your community, call 1-866-3-Hungry or 1-877-8-Hambre.

USDA is focused on improving childhood nutrition and empowering families to make healthier food choices by providing science-based information and advice, while expanding the availability of healthy food.

  • America's students now have healthier and more nutritious school meals due to improved nutrition standards implemented as a result of the historic Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.
  • USDA is making fresh fruits and vegetables more accessible for low-income families. More than 3,200 farmers markets and farm stands are now authorized to accept payment through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), an increase of nearly 100 percent since 2010.
  • USDA's MyPlate symbol and the resources at ChooseMyPlate.gov provide quick, easy reference tools for parents, teachers, healthcare professionals and communities.
  • USDA also created SuperTracker, a free online planning and tracking tool used by over two million Americans daily to help them improve food choices, maintain a healthy weight, and track physical activity.
  • USDA provides shopping strategies and meal planning advice to help families serve more nutritious meals affordably through its 10-Tips Nutrition Series and the Thrifty Food Plan.
  • Through USDA's Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative, the Department has worked to increase access to nutritious food through the development of strong local and regional food systems. The number of farmers markets increased by more than 67 percent in the last four years and there are now more than 220 regional food hubs in operation around the country.
  • USDA launched a new $5 million Farm to School grant program in 2012 to increase the amount of healthy, local food in schools.

USDA continues working with First Lady Michelle Obama on the Let's Move! initiative, which is helping to promote healthy eating and physical activity while supporting the health of American families. Through the combined efforts of USDA and its partners, the United States is beginning to see progress and improvements in the health of our Nation's children.

USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (866) 632-9992 (Toll-free Customer Service), (800) 877-8339 (Local or Federal relay), (866) 377-8642 (Relay voice users).

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