USDA connects local food producers with schools

One in eight kids across the U.S. live in homes with food shortages, according to No Kid Hungry, which also reports that a lack of healthy food has a major impact on how kids learn.

Hunger can lead to lower self-confidence and energy levels, and higher rates of depression. But a new program is working to ensure healthy food from farms makes it on the table.

“It is a win-win,” state Commissioner of Education Betty Rosa said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing $26 million and $12 million in the state with a Local Food Purchase Assistance Cooperative Agreement and Local Food for Schools Cooperative Agreement, respectively.

The investment will get local food into schools, food banks and different nutrition programs in New York, said Jenny Lester Moffitt, USDA under secretary for marketing and regulatory reform programs.

She announced the new partnership Thursday during a visit to ​a BOCES Career and Technical Center.

The under secretary said the pandemic highlighted the need to strengthen programs like these — because food banks were scarce and supply chain disruptions stymied farmers and their respected markets.

“We saw that disconnect, and this program is really about building these connections and fostering strong markets for producers in the long term,” she said.

State leaders called it critical funding that will also help launch a new program to further its reach to underserved communities.

“We will now create the New York Food for New York Families program to support an even more resilient food system,” said state Commissioner of Agriculture and Markets Richard Ball.

Educators said while it will improve access for children at school, it won’t eliminate food insecurity that many families experience on a daily basis.

“We hope that we can get to a place that we can feed all of our children, and not necessarily have to go through the process that will be complicated and create barriers,” Rosa said.–food-banks