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Money on Way to Fight Hunger and Obesity in Arkansas

A grant program is geared toward getting more Arkansas children to eat fresh food. (Virginia Carter)
A grant program is geared toward getting more Arkansas children to eat fresh food. (Virginia Carter)
June 16, 2016

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Almost $17 million in grants are heading to organizations that help feed the hungry with the goal of getting low-income residents to eat healthier. The Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance has been awarded $94,000 for a pilot program to let SNAP recipients double their benefits at farmers markets.

Kevin Concannon, Undersecretary for Food and Nutrition and Consumer Services at USDA said, as an example, a family could spend $20 on fresh food and get $40 worth. He said it's a way to combat the hunger and obesity problem in Arkansas.

"The average American does not consume enough fruits and vegetables in their diet," he stressed. "Most of us consume too many processed foods, and in low-income households that gap is even greater."

One in four Arkansas children deals with hunger issues, with 29 percent living below the poverty level. According to the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance, families spend on average an additional $300 each month on food during the summer.

Concannon said the idea is to get residents, especially children, to always have healthy food choices available. He said that's not happening now because healthy food tends to be more expensive.

"This has been tested in other areas of the country, and it has resulted in households purchasing and consuming more fruits and vegetables," he said. "That's our underlying goal."

Arkansas's obesity rate in 2014
was nearly 36 percent. Concannon said if families can afford to buy fresh food that number would come down.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - AR