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Hunger-Free Communities Program

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced a series of new initiatives aimed at helping communities increase food access by promoting coordination and partnerships between public, private and non-profit partners on February 23, 2011. The U.S. Department of Agriculture will be investing $4.98 million in grants to 14 communities in eight states, including New York City, to reduce hunger and improve the nutrition of low-income Americans.

A collaboration of New York City’s leading non-profit and governmental public anti-hunger, nutrition, and aging organizations was granted $2 million. The partnership includes us - the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, AARP Foundation, City Harvest, the Council of Senior Centers and Services of New York City, Food Bank for NYC, the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, the City Department for the Aging, and Public Health Solutions through the United Way of New York City.

The grant will be used to implement a set of strategies spanning the next two years – based on a comprehensive plan adopted in 2006 by 75 citywide, faith-based, and neighborhood groups. The goal is to significantly reduce hunger and improve nutrition throughout the city, including the formation of a New York City Food Policy Council to connect the non-profit, public, and private sectors. This project will work towards the creation of a hunger-free community in all five boroughs, with a particular focus on aiding the especially vulnerable population of households with children, working poor, and senior citizens.

The thirteen grantees outside New York are located in New Jersey, California, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington and Maryland. The grants fund the development and implementation of plans to help communities expand access to healthy food through increased participation in federal nutrition programs and other creative initiatives that meet a community’s unique needs.

In 2009, over 50 million individuals in the United States, 16.6% of the total population, lived in food insecure households. Children and seniors are especially vulnerable throughout New York City, approximately one out of every five residents (1.5 million people) lives below the federal poverty level (approximately $18,300 annually for a family of three).

“Too many New Yorkers simply can't build a better life when they are struggling to feed themselves and their families, which is why United Way puts such an emphasis on reducing hunger in our City,” said Gordon Campbell, President & CEO of United Way of New York City. “This grant will help New York continue to be at the forefront of creating and implementing programs and services that work to reduce the number of food insecure households. “We are pleased to be working with so many respected and committed partners to continue this work.”

"Families in crisis and the elderly are increasingly dealing with hunger as a fact of life. This partnership represents part of the solution for many who need our help,” said William E. Rapfogel, the CEO of Met Council. “We are grateful to this great team and the U.S. Department of Agriculture for helping our innovative approach."

“City Harvest is grateful to be a part of this exciting opportunity to address hunger in New York City by building public and private partnerships,” said Jilly Stephens, the Executive Director of City Harvest. “We look forward to the role we can play in helping meet the considerable food needs of our communities."

"AARP and AARP Foundation have made a long-term commitment to reducing hunger in America and this collaboration will allow us to augment our work in New York City," said Lois Wagh Aronstein, AARP New York State director. “AARP believes that no one of any age should go hungry and we thank Secretary Vilsack for making this significant investment in the health of our nation's most vulnerable citizens.”

“The importance of this historic USDA grant cannot be underestimated,” said Lucy Cabrera, Ph.D., the President & CEO of the Food Bank for New York City. “Hardship has intensified for families who are struggling to put food on the table and approximately one-third of New York City residents are sacrificing the quality and quantity of food they are buying in order to make ends meet. This grant will help us meet those needs.”

“As New York faces the challenges of assisting its older citizens to remain healthy while living in the community, we are pleased that recognition is being given to the importance of nutrition in addressing chronic illnesses of aging,” said Igal Jellinek, the Executive Director of Council of Senior Centers and Services of NYC, Inc. “We are proud to be a partner in the Hunger Free Communities Consortium's multigenerational initiative and look forward to providing outreach and access to a diverse population of low income, vulnerable older New Yorkers to help end hunger in New York City.”

“This collaborative approach is paramount to successfully tackling the alleviation of hunger in many of New York City's neighborhoods,” said Ellen Rautenberg, the President and CEO of Public Health Solutions. “There is a great need for action and we are looking forward to working with our partners to increase community awareness of WIC, SNAP and other existing nutrition assistance programs that can help create a hunger-free and healthy NYC .”

“This historic public-private partnership will allow non-profit groups to build our capacities to help more struggling families receive government nutrition assistance benefits and school breakfasts,” said Joel Berg, Executive Director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger. “It will both fight hunger and bolster our economy.”

USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) oversees the administration of 15 nutrition assistance programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the child nutrition programs, that touch the lives of one in four Americans over the course of a year. These programs work in concert to form a national safety net against hunger. Visit www.fns.usda.gov for information about FNS and nutrition assistance programs.