NSAC's Blog

New Initiative to Fight Rural Child Poverty

September 28, 2015

As a follow-up to recent announcements by the White House on efforts to combat rural child poverty, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) last week announced the selection of ten communities for the Rural Integration Models for Parents and Children to Thrive (Rural IMPACT) Demonstration project. The project is aimed at helping communities adopt a comprehensive, whole-family framework for addressing child poverty by increasing parents’ employment and education and improving the health and well-being of their children and families through improved services.

Currently, over six million Americans in rural areas live in poverty, including about 1.5 million children. In rural areas in the U.S., one in every four children lives in poverty, as compared to one in every five children in urban areas. In the selected pilot communities, child poverty rates range from 17.8 percent to 53.9 percent.

The ten selected communities are:

  • Berea (KY), Partners for Education at Berea College (Serving Knox County, KY)
  • Blanding (UT), The San Juan Foundation (Serving San Juan County, UT)
  • Blytheville (AR), Mississippi County, Arkansas Economic Opportunity Commission, Inc. (Serving Mississippi County, AR)
  • Hillsboro (OH), Highland County Community Action Organization, Inc. (Serving Highland County, OH)
  • Hugo (OK), Little Dixie Community Action Agency, Inc. (Serving Choctaw, McCurtain and Pushmataha Counties)
  • Jackson (MS), Friends of Children of Mississippi, Inc. (Serving Issaquena, Sharkey and Humphreys Counties, MS)
  • Machias (ME), Community Caring Collaborative (Serving Washington County, ME)
  • Marshalltown (IA), Mid‐Iowa Community Action, Inc. (Serving Marshalltown, IA)
  • Oakland (MD), Garrett County Community Action Committee and the Allegany Human Resources Commission (Serving Garrett and Allegany Counties, MD)
  • White Earth (MN), White Earth Reservation Tribal Council (Serving Mahnomen County and portions of Clearwater and Becker Counties)

HHS will administer the Demonstration with support from the Community Action Partnership and the American Academy of Pediatrics and implemented in collaboration with the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Education, and Labor, Appalachian Regional Commission, Delta Regional Authority, and the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS).

Each demonstration community will receive:

  • A six-month planning period with targeted technical assistance (TA) to help communities link programs and services;
  • At least six months of additional TA to begin the implementation period, during which sites will work to address system, policy, and program changes targeting alleviation of child poverty;
  • Partnership with CNCS to develop projects to place AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers, helping local partners develop new or enhance existing antipoverty programming, map community assets, and help build local community capacity;
  • Participation in a peer learning network to facilitate the sharing of best practices among sites facing similar opportunities and challenges; and
  • Support from a federal interagency team to identify and address barriers to cross-programmatic work.

We look forward to hearing about the lessons learned from these demonstration communities and how best practices can help other communities around the country.

The announcement comes on the heels of the Pope’s historic visit to the U.S. last week and his address to Congress, where he reminded lawmakers that “[t]he fight against poverty and hunger must be fought constantly and on many fronts.”

Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Addressing Hunger and Poverty

The Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act (CNR), set to expire at the end of this month and relying on passage of the Continuing Resolution for continued funding, is one crucial way that Congress helps in the fight against poverty and hunger all across the country. Not only do programs such as the National School Lunch Program provide free and reduced-price nutritious meals to an estimated 21.5 million low-income children (in just the 2014 year alone), CNR programs have been shown to alleviate poverty rates, providing struggling families with a greater ability to stretch their dollars.

The Farm to School Grant Program, one of the many programs included in the CNR, also helps in the fight against hunger and poverty – enabling schools to gain better access to nutritious, locally sourced foods for school meals and building up healthy eating habits among children. The Farm to School Grant Program also helps provide better economic opportunities for farmers and local agriculture-related businesses, such as processors and distributors, which in turn helps retain and increase job opportunities and spur economic development in rural communities.

According to a recent report on the Farm to School Grant Program by USDA, the overwhelming majority of grant awards (78 percent) went to schools or school districts with free or reduced-price meal eligibility rates greater than 50 percent. Additionally, forty percent of farm to school grants were awarded to rural schools or districts, and 38 percent of grants were distributed in StrikeForce states and territories to address challenges associated with rural poverty.

Congress needs to build on the success of farm to school by strengthening and expanding the program’s scope and by providing additional mandatory funding. NSAC and the National Farm to School Network (NFSN) have diligently been working to advance farm to school priorities in the 2015 reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act, with the shared goal of supporting stronger communities, healthier children and resilient farms.

Categories: Local & Regional Food Systems, Nutrition & Food Access, Rural Development

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