“I feed hungry children” is what Bill Ludwig regional administrator with the USDA tells people when they ask what he does for a living.”
Bill is taking part in the CLC Hunger Policy Summit that is going on today. Churches can and do work with the USDA. Often times, both sides are timid about working together due to misunderstandings around the separation of church and state. The USDA consistently works with churches to feed people. The Dallas office, which is the headquarters for the 7-state southwest region, even has a faith-based administrator on staff. “We’re working with the Texas Baptists and El Paso Baptist Association and churches to start a food bank in El Paso…there isn’t one there. The El Paso area is serviced by a food bank out of Midland/Odessa. We can and desire to work with faith-based programs.”
The USDA also purchases surplus foods to manage the supply and demand. This extra food goes to school lunch programs and to food banks around the nation.
USDA morphed into not only a feeding agency, but also nutrition agency…thus creating the food pyramid and education programs. “A lot of people in the US don’t understand the hunger needs in America. We may see someone obese and assume they aren’t in need of nutrition. But it’s cheaper to eat poorly than it is to eat healthy. We don’t want to just feed people, we want to keep people healthy and that costs more.” The USDA also purchases surplus foods to manage the supply and demand. This extra food goes to school lunch programs and to food banks around the nation.
Stats from 2007
-89% of US households were food secure;
-11.1% food insecure which means 52 million people in 13 million households have at some times had difficulty feeding the family
-4.7% or 18 million people are very food insecure which means that there were multiple times when the family went without food.
-These are people near or below the poverty line and typically households headed by women, with a high percentage of African American or Hispanic background
-The Texas food insecure rate is 14.8%, above the national average and 5% are very food insecure again above the average. The vast majority are working – the working poor.
The USDA administers 15 programs that create a safety net across US; Food & Services has 60% of budget for USDA – about $60 billion. The USDA has recently received stimulus money to help those in need but also stimulate the economy. “Food programs put the stimulus money back in the economy within 30 days; for construction it is 2+years. For every $5 there is a $9.20 return into the economy.
Other USDA feeding information:
-Food stamps changed their name to SNAP – the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Of those on SNAP, 50% are children and 90% are the working poor.
-National school lunch program – free lunches and breakfasts for those in need of healthy food. Texas has largest number of children enrolled in America…that means Texas serves more than California and many eligible aren’t enrolled.
-Texas serves 3.2 million meals daily during the school year. Nationwide that number is 17.5 million. Texas is also the largest for feeding breakfasts at schools at 1.4 million every school morning. This is done because “hungry children can’t learn” says Bill said. So, what happens when schools are out for the summer? Well, many don’t get the nutrition they need. “Many children get their best or only meal at the school lunch program.” There are only 2 million kids taking part in this…which leaves 15 million without nutrition. Just so you know, if you hold VBS in an area with children with food needs, the USDA can provide the food for you to feed them which helps you reach your community and provide for needs.
-In Texas, the program WIC (Women Infant Child) has highest number enrolled in the nation at 971,000 participants. Also, 6 in 10 Texas newborns are eligible for WIC.
While we in Texas have the highest participation rates on several programs listed, it doesn’t translate into we are meeting the need better … it indicates that we have so much work to do to alleviate hunger. Your church can get involved by working with food banks, housing a food pantry and working distribute USDA surplus to food banks.