Ag. Sect’y Vilsack keys in on food insecurity, nutrition in budget request; Pa. other states impacted

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden (R) and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris (L) look on as Tom Vilsack, U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee to head the Department of Agriculture, delivers remarks at the Queen Theater December 11, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware. President-elect Joe Biden is continuing to round out his domestic team with the announcement of his choices for cabinet secretaries of Veterans Affairs and Agriculture, and the heads of his domestic policy council and the U.S. Trade Representative. Vilsack served for eight years as President Barack Obama’s secretary of Agriculture. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Wednesday laid out the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s goals to expand food insecurity and nutrition programs in the president’s budget request, as well as the agency’s focus on programs to address longtime racial discrimination.

In Pennsylvania, the state Department of Agriculture announced it had purchased an additional 7.9 million pounds of emergency food from the federal government. The food, valued at $12.9 million, will be delivered between June and December of this year, the agency said in a statement.

“While we’re actively getting Pennsylvanians back to work as the pandemic slows, many are still recovering from severe economic stress which has in turn stressed our charitable food system,” Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding said in a statement. “These federal funds are allowing us to increase the flow of food to food banks across the commonwealth as they work to continue meeting unprecedented demand.”

The state says it’s going to channel $3.2 million in federal money, provided through the U.S. government’s Emergency Food Assistance Program, to help food banks cover administrative costs, as well as the transportation and storage of the emergency food, which includes meats, vegetables, canned goods, and cheese to local food pantries and other access points.  

According to the most recent data available, 12.5 percent of Pennsylvanians reported experiencing some form of food insecurity, according to The State of Childhood Obesity, a project of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

People who experience food insecurity often have to reduce the quality or variety of their diet, according to the State of Childhood Obesity. Overall food insecurity rates nationwide range from  7.4 percent in North Dakota to 20.1 percent in Mississippi, the organization’s data shows.

Racial Disparities

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Ariana Figueroa covers Washington D.C. for States Newsroom, which supports the Capital-Star.
John L. Micek
A 3-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. An award-winning political reporter, Micek’s career has taken him from small town meetings and Chicago City Hall to Congress and the Pennsylvania Capitol. His weekly column on U.S. politics is syndicated to 800 newspapers nationwide by Cagle Syndicate. He also contributes commentary and analysis to broadcast outlets in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Micek’s first novel, “Ordinary Angels,” was released in 2019 by Sunbury Press