As we near the end of another winter, many parents and children are already beginning to think about summer. Sadly, though, the thought for some parents is: “How will I feed my children?”
Childhood hunger is a persistent problem in many parts of rural America. This especially so during the summer when school is out and many poor kids do not have enough to eat. My agency, USDA Rural Development, is working closely with our sister agency, the Food and Nutrition Service, in an innovative partnership to help alleviate hunger by providing nutritious meals to children during the summer. Together, we are working to implement Secretary Perdue’s vision to “Do right and feed everyone.”
This year we’re expanding our reach into rural communities. We’re looking at innovative ways to strengthen partnerships and support infrastructure in rural communities. Rural Development is committed to providing efficient and effective customer service while improving the quality of life and creating prosperity in rural communities. The summer meals collaboration provides a great opportunity to build innovative partnerships and leverage our collective resources to feed rural children during the summer.
Our approach to this work is governed by the three priorities Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue established for USDA Rural Development: Infrastructure, Partnerships and Innovation.
Modern infrastructure is a necessity -- not an amenity -- for any community to thrive. No matter what zip code you live in, infrastructure is a foundation to provide a high quality of life and economic opportunities. USDA’s Community Facilities and Rural Housing programs have helped to finance modern facilities such as libraries, schools, community centers and apartment complexes that will serve as feeding sites. If we address rural infrastructure needs, many of the other challenges in rural places become much more manageable.
Rural Development is committed to expanding our impact though partnerships. Our collaboration with partners in the Summer Food Program is a great opportunity to build more partnerships and leverage collective resources to feed more rural children during the summer.
Finally, USDA will seek to improve the Summer Food Service Program and all of its programs to better serve customers though innovation. With Secretary Perdue’s creation of the Innovation Center, USDA staff are empowered to develop new approaches that better serve our mission and to collect new ideas and turn them into best practices. We welcome any new and innovative approaches and partnerships that will allow us to deliver our programs more efficiently and effectively to rural communities and customers.
Rural Development is committed to providing efficient and effective customer service while improving the quality of life and creating prosperity in rural communities. The summer meals collaboration provides a great opportunity to build partnerships and leverage our collective resources to feed rural children during the summer.
To be successful in our efforts, we need your help.
If you know of a great location to host meals this summer, please contact me at Arthur A. Garcia at 505-761-4951. My staff and I will be reaching out to schools, libraries, community centers and other locations throughout the state during the next several weeks. We will invite them to host a summer meals site.
Please know we’ve had successful food distribution sites located at the Franklin Vista Apartment Complex in Anthony, NM, Cliffside I, Sun Valley and Pinon Hills Apartments in Gallup, NM and Kristin Park Apartments in Las Vegas, NM. Since these meals sites were established we’ve seen hundreds of children eat healthy, nutritious lunches Monday through Friday throughout the summer.
Let’s work together like never before to establish more summer feeding sites in New Mexico this year!
For additional information about the Summer Food Service Program, go to www.summerfood.usda.gov. Together we can make a difference!
For more information about how to sign up to host summer meals, go to www.fns.usda.gov/sfsp/how-become-sponsor.
Arthur A. Garcia is the USDA New Mexico Rural Development State Executive Director.