March is National Nutrition Month! So Let’s Talk About How the USDA is providing Nutrition to our population.


March Newsletter Cover 2

March is our National Nutrition Month; but, unfortunately, most of us don’t know it. We have to confess that until we started writing this Blog post, we didn’t realize it either; and we’re in the nutritious food business.

Because it’s National Nutrition Month, we’re once again post-poning our Series on “Obesity in America” to celebrate and inform our readers about all of the Food related Programs that we are running in the U.S. including who these programs serve and the costs of those services.

But before we go there, we want to point out our original cartoons by our Marketing Director, Grace Sylke who is loving her new Pixton.com software. If you want to see them bigger or share them, go to our Pinterest Page.

Here is one of the Best National Programs we’ve got going; and it needs your Support.

FARM to SCHOOL

farm-to-school-logo

“Farm to School is a program in the United States through which schools buy and feature locally produced, farm-fresh foods such as fruits and vegetables, eggs, honey, meat, and beans on their menus. Schools also incorporate nutrition-based curriculum and provide students with experiential learning opportunities such as farm visits, gardening, and recycling programs. As a result of Farm to School, students have access to fresh, local foods, and farmers have access to new markets through school sales. Farmers are also able to participate in programs designed to educate kids about local food and agriculture.”
(Quote taken from Wikipedia)

This program started in 1996, and was fueled by “the desire to support community-based food systems, strengthen family farms and improve student health by reducing childhood obesity”. (Wikipedia) The plan was based on a triple win situation; and it was spearheaded with pilot projects in California through the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School System and The Edible Schoolyard in Berkeley, which was created by the famous food activist, Alice Waters. (To learn more about Alice Waters, go to our Food Revolution Part 2 Series in our May 2014 Newsletter featuring the Revolutionaries)

This program is now almost 20 years old, and it’s still going strong. Below, are some statistics that describe how effective this program was in the 2011-2012 school year based on a Census taken in 2013. A second Census is being conducted this year.

FNS Main Story Infographic

In 2014, the USDA issued approximately $5 million in Farm to School Grants to help school districts across the country further develop their farm to school programming.

Support Farm to School

In 2010, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act was passed. It’s a Federal Statute that was signed into law by President Obama as part of the reauthorization of funding for child nutrition in the original Child Nutrition Act passed in 1966. The Farm to School Program is a Grant Program under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. To learn more about the original act enacted in 1966, click the above link. During the signing of the original act, then president, Johnson, remarked that “good food is essential to good learning.”

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act funds child nutrition programs and free lunch programs in schools for 5 years and continues through 2015. In addition, the bill sets new nutrition standards for schools, and allocates $4.5 billion for their implementation. More on the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act below.

The Farm to School Program is allocated a mere $5 million of the nearly $36 billion (that’s a “B” for billion) dollar child nutrition five year funding budget. They have partnered with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition to establish stronger Farm to School priorities in the 2015 reauthorization of the original Child Nutrition Act, and they are pushing for an additional $100 million in funding over the next decade.

If there were ever a program that deserves more funding, it’s this one because it’s so inclusive of both children, farmers and local communities. There are two bills representing this program. Click on the Bills to follow their progress. Both Bills were referred to Committee on February 25th, 2015.

S. 569 and H.R. 1061

Please communicate with your Senators and Congressional Representative to help get them passed.

Here’s another incredible National Program that warrants your support.

FEEDING AMERICA

Feeding America Logo

We first learned about FEEDING AMERICA when we went to Tucson, AZ in late 2011 to install three of our Aquaponics USA Food Forever Growing Systems in three elementary schools there.

We did an Interview with the Lead on that project, Zotero Citilacoatl who was the Youth Farm Project Manager for the Community Food Resource Center of the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona. We were new in the field of food and agriculture, so we had no idea that the Southern Arizona Community Food Bank was being supported by FEEDING AMERICA until we did that interview.

In many ways, we are very beholden to FEEDING AMERICA because it was that organization that funded the Grant that purchased those first three Food Forever School Growing Systems that we sold. We are now selling most of our Growing Systems to schools all over the U.S. To learn more about our School Growing Systems, go to our webpage that describes our School Packages and Pricing structure.

FEEDNG AMERICA leads our nation in the fight against hunger through it’s nationwide network of Food Banks that feed more than 46 million people through food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters and other community-based agencies.

Food Bank

FEEDING AMERICA has had a long history and a different name. It all started with John van Hengel.

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John lived from February 21,1923 until October 5, 2005; and after he took a vow of poverty as a devout Roman Catholic and started working at Immaculate Heart Church in Phoenix, Arizona in the late 60’s, he began to solicit unwanted food for the poor from grocery stores, local gardens and nearby produce farms. These efforts led to the creation of the first Food Bank in the world, which was located in Phoenix, Arizona and called the St. Mary’s Food Bank in 1967. “In addition he worked for many years as a consultant to U.S. cities starting their own food banks. He also traveled the world teaching other countries how to set up food banks which are now in operation throughout Europe and in many other countries, including Israel, Australia and Mexico.” (Quote taken from the Find A Gravewebsite)

In 1975, St. Mary’s was given a federal grant to assist in developing Food Banks across the nation. This organization became America’s Second Harvest with Mr. van Hengel in charge. America’s Second Harvest merged with Foodchain, another food distribution charity.

Then in May of 2007, the American Idol TV Program named America’s Second Harvest as the recipient of the Idol Gives Back Charity Program and the company was put on the map. They changed their name to FEEDING AMERICA in 2008. Since then, several high profile people and companies have adopted FEEDING AMERICA including Bob Dylan in 2009 with an announcement by Columbia Records that all U.S. royalties from his Christmas in the Heart album would go to FEEDING AMERICA in perpetuity.

Today, Tony Robbins, the well known motivational speaker, is supporting a 100 Million Meals Challenge, and he’s inviting us all to help match his gift of 50 million meals to FEEDING AMERICA so, together, we can provide 100 million meals for the 49 million Americans who struggle with hunger. When combined with Tony’s gift, every $1 you give helps secure and distribute 20 meals through the FEEDING AMERICA network of food banks.

If you’re being called to contribute, just go to FEEDING AMERICA and join Tony’s 100 Million Meals Challenge.

What’s happening with Nutrition in the USDA?

USDA

Our USDA is supporting a number of beneficial Nutritional Programs beyond the Farm to School Program. Some of these programs are serviced based on age and ethnicity. Others like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) formerly known as Food Stamps, service a broad swath of our nation’s population. So let’s start with one of the children’s programs:

The Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP)

Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Program

“The Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP) was authorized by the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002. The pilot program began in 4 states and 1 Indian Tribal Organization (Zuni, New Mexico).

The purpose of the pilot was to determine the best practices for increasing fruit (both fresh and dried) and fresh vegetable consumption in schools.

As a result of the Program’s popularity, the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004 (more on WIC below) added 4 more states (Pennsylvania, Mississippi, North Carolina, Washington), 10 schools in South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Reservation, and 8 schools in Arizona’s Tribal Council (3 schools in the Gila River Pima Community and 5 schools in the Tohono O’odham Community).

The Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2006, Public Law 109-97, appropriated money to expand the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program to include: Utah, Wisconsin, New Mexico (25 schools), Texas, Connecticut, and Idaho. The Farm Bill amended the National School Lunch Act by eliminating section 18(f) and adding section 19, the FFVP and provided significant changes from the previous program.

The Program is now Nation-wide in selected schools in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.” (Quote taken from USDA webpage on the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program )

Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations

Food Distribution to Indian Rez

This is an idillic representation of an Indian Reservation with ceremonial teepees set up to honor the food. There are 310 Native American Reservations in the U.S. and typically, many of America’s poorest people reside in them. When we speak about 3rd World and Developing Countries, we are also speaking about these Sovereign Nations, which constitute 3rd World Countries within our borders. Thank goodness, there’s a program designed to pick up those Native Americans who do not have access to the larger, all inclusive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program commonly known as (SNAP).

“Low-income American Indian and non-Indian households that reside on a reservation and households living in approved areas near a reservation or in Oklahoma that contain at least one person who is a member of a Federally-recognized tribe, are eligible to participate in FDPIR.

Households are certified based on income standards set by the Federal government and must be recertified at least every 12 months. Elderly and disabled households may be certified for up to 24 months. Households may not participate in FDPIR and SNAP in the same month.

The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), an agency of the USDA, administers FDPIR at the Federal level. The program is administered locally by either Indian Tribal Organizations (ITOs) or an agency of a State government. Currently, there are approximately 276 tribes receiving benefits under FDPIR through 100 ITOs and 5 State agencies.” (Quote taken from USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, Nutrition Program Fact Sheet)

The Meals on Wheels Program

Meals On Wheels #2

Without the Meals On Wheels Program many of our Senior Citizens would starve. “Meals on Wheels operates in virtually every community in America through a network of more than 5,000 independently-run local programs. While the diversity of each program’s services and operations may vary based on the needs and resources of their communities, they are all committed to supporting their senior neighbors to live healthier and more nourished lives in their own homes.

Meals On Wheels galvanizes the resources of local community organizations, businesses, donors, sponsors and more than two million volunteers – bolstered by supplemental funding from the Older Americans Act – into a national safety net for our seniors. Meals on Wheels ensures that seniors have access to adequate nutrition even when family support, mobility and resources are lacking.

For seniors who are mobile and attending Senior Centers and other gathering places, Meals On Wheels also delivers to many of those community gathering places.

This amazing service for our Seniors not only drops off daily nutritious meals, it offers seniors the opportunity to visit with a friendly, caring person who is also doing a safety check to mitigate against the risks of medical emergencies, falls and other accidents.

Meals On Wheels is partially supported by the Older Americans Act (OAA) of 1965, which was the first federal level initiative aimed at providing comprehensive services for older adults and was passed as part of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society initiative.” (Quote taken from Meals On Wheels America)

Within the last two years, there has been a movement in Congress spearheaded by Senator Bernie Sanders to Reauthorize the OAA. Two Bills were created. Senate Bill S.1562: Older Americans Act Reauthorization Act of 2014 was not enacted in 2014 and the House of Representatives Bill, H.R. 4122, by the same name was referred to Committee on Feb. 28, 2014. This was the last action on the Bill.

Let’s show our support for Reauthorizing these two Bills and getting them passed in 2015 as our elder Boomers remain the largest segment of our population and will need more Meals On Wheels.

To follow these Bills, go to GovTrack.us.

Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP)

Senior Farmers' Mkt. Nutrition Program

This is an interesting USDA Program focused on Seniors. It’s the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP).

“The Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) awards grants to States, U.S. Territories, and federally recognized Indian tribal governments to provide low-income seniors with coupons that can be exchanged for eligible foods (fruits, vegetables, honey, and fresh-cut herbs) at farmers’ markets, roadside stands, and community-supported agriculture programs.

The SFMNP is administered by State agencies such as the State Department of Agriculture or the Agency on Aging.

The purposes of the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program are to:

(1) Provide resources in the form of fresh, nutritious, unprepared, locally grown fruits, vegetables, honey and herbs from farmers’ markets, roadside stands and community supported agriculture programs to low-income seniors,
(2) Increase the domestic consumption of agricultural commodities by expanding or aiding in the expansion of domestic farmers’ markets, roadside stands, and community supported agriculture programs, and
(3) Develop or aid in the development of new and additional farmers’ markets, roadside stands, and community supported agriculture programs.” (Quote from USDA Overview of the Program)

Like Farm to School, this program benefits both the recipient of the vouchers as well as the sellers of the fruits, vegetables, honey and herbs. It’s another win/win program that supports everyone involved.

USDA Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

snap

No line up of USDA Food Assistance Programs would be complete without listing the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program now known as SNAP and formerly known as Food Stamps.

“SNAP offers nutrition assistance to millions of eligible, low-income individuals and families and provides economic benefits to communities. SNAP is the largest program in the domestic hunger safety net. The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) works with State agencies, nutrition educators, and neighborhood and faith-based organizations to ensure that those eligible for nutrition assistance can make informed decisions about applying for the program and can access benefits. FNS also works with State partners and the retail community to improve program administration and ensure program integrity.” (Quote from the USDA website on SNAP )

As of the last count, which was October 2014, there were 46,674,364 Americans on SNAP, which constitutes 14.6 percent of the 318,857,056 people in our popu-lation. Households on food stamps got an average benefit of $261.44 during the month, and total benefits for the month cost taxpayers nearly $6 billion. That’s $6 billion per month, which would be $72 billion per year. (Statistics from an on-line publicly supported news website, CNS NEWS )

“Close to 70 percent of SNAP participants are in families with children; more than one-quarter are in households with seniors or people with disabilities.

After unemployment insurance, SNAP is the most responsive federal program providing additional assistance during economic downturns. It also is an important nutritional support for low-wage working families, low-income seniors, and people with disabilities living on fixed incomes.

The federal government pays the full cost of SNAP benefits and splits the cost of administering the program with the states, which operate the program.” (Quote taken from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)

Being the best known and the largest food assistance program out there, often places SNAP in the crossfires of criticism; and many believe it is being over used and under managed allowing for abuse and fraud. Nevertheless, this program has been and continues to be a god-send to many Americans in need of food assistance.

All About the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act

Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act

This Act was passed in 2010 as part of the reauthorization of funding for child nutrition (see the original Child Nutrition Act). It’s focal point is improving child nutrition; and it serves to set policy for the USDA’s core child nutrition programs including the:

National School Lunch Program (NSLP)
School Breakfast Program (SBP)
Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC)
Summer Food Service Program (SFSP)
Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP)
Farm to School Grant Program
(Quote from USDA website School Meals, Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act)

Except for the WIC Program and the Farm to School Grant Program, we are not going into detail regarding each of these programs. For more information, click on the above Links to see what each of these programs entails.

In March of 2010, “the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that implementing this bill would have discretionary costs of $35.9 billion over the 2011-2015 period, assuming appropriation of the necessary amounts.” Most of these costs are for the reauthorization of WIC, which received an appropriation of $7.3 billion in fiscal year 2010 and would, therefore, need at the very least 5 times that for the designated 5 year period of 2011-2015 period. (Quote taken from the Congressional Budget Office Cost Estimate dated March 24, 2010)

The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act has nothing to do with the SNAP Program and is a separate expenditure that is focused on children except in the case of Adult Care Facilities where Adults are being serviced.

That means that between the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act and the SNAP Program, the USDA is spending nearly $80 billion annually to provide nutrition for people in need.

The Women Infants and Children Program (WIC)

Women Infants and Children

“In 1974, WIC was established as a permanent program to safeguard the health of low-income women, infants and children up to the age of 5 who are at nutritional risk.

This mission is carried out by providing nutritious foods to supplement diets, nutrition education (including breastfeeding promotion and support), and referrals to health and other social services.

WIC benefits are not limited only to food. Participants have access to a number of resources, including health screening, nutrition and breastfeeding counseling, immunization screening and referral, substance abuse referral and more.” (Quote taken from USDA website page on the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program)

WIC recipients become eligible for this program based on their annual income and must fall at or below 185 percent of the U.S. Poverty Income Guidelines as of the revised guidelines effective from July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015.(Information gleaned from the USDA website page on the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program)

There was a rather shocking group of statistics put out by the USDA in 2010 as part of their State-Level Estimates of Infants and Pre-School-Age Children at or Below 185 Percent of Poverty. These stats compare 2009 to 2010 and show that almost every state had rising numbers of children in this category. It appears that the recession that was triggered by the pop of the housing bubble in 2008 among other things has plunged more households at or below 185 percent of poverty.

“WIC is not an entitlement program as Congress does not set aside funds to allow every eligible individual to participate in the program. WIC is a Federal Grant Program for which Congress authorizes a specific amount of funds each year for the program. Based on the 2010 figure, WIC annual cost is around $7 billion; and it is the most costly program in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act Program Group.

WIC is:
1. Administered at the Federal level by FNS
2. Administered by 90 WIC state agencies, through approximately 47,000 authorized retailers.
3. WIC operates through 1,900 local agencies in 10,000 clinic sites, in 50 State health departments, 34 Indian Tribal Organizations, the District of Columbia, and five territories (Northern Mariana, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands)”
(Quote taken from USDA website page Wic at a Glance)

Currently, WIC serves a staggering 53% of all infants born in the United States. This means that over half of the children born in the U.S. need Nutritional support by the government; and this is another example of how fragile our economy is post the 2008 crash.

In Conclusion:

Dinosaur with Hard Hat

In conclusion, we have to say that as we wrote this month’s Newsletter, we really learned a lot. We had no idea about how many different Nutrition Programs are being funded and how much those programs cost.

We’ve seen comparisons regarding the percentage Americans spend on food out of their annual incomes compared to other countries; and those figures show that we spend so much less.

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But now we’re wondering if these statistics are taking into account how much the U.S. Government, via it’s tax payers, is spending on Nutrition.

Maybe if we took the nearly $80 billion that is being spent annually by the USDA and divided it up among all of the taxpayers and then did the comparison again, we’d get a higher percentage number spent on Food in the U.S. We’re pretty sure those billions aren’t reflected in the above graph.

On the other hand, we spent $799.8 billion on our Defense Budget in fiscal year 2014. There’s another mind blowing number for you. We’re actually spending almost 10 times more on Defense than we’re spending on Food for the needy.

Bottom line, we have to feed our people in need; and we need to defend all of us so relax and enjoy this last day of Nutrition Month.

Thank You for following our Blog. We hope you enjoyed reading this one as much as we enjoyed doing the research and bringing you this information.

P.S. Remember to tell your friends and family who want to learn more about our Food System or who are interested in Aquaponics to check out our Blog. If you’d like to see this Blog Post as a monthly Newsletter, go to our March 2015 Newsletter, Number 15.

Sustainably,

Aquaponics USA/World

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