Nutrition Program Would Expand Access to Healthy Foods in Rural Arkansas
Wednesday, September 6, 2023
September is Hunger Action Month, and an advocacy group is working to get legislation expanded to provide more healthy foods to people in rural Arkansas.
Some 41% of Arkansans live in rural counties.
Florence French Fagan, senior regional organizer for the nonprofit Bread For The World, said they are focused on part of the Farm Bill known as the GusNIP Expansion Act. It would improve and expand the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program, enabling people who receive SNAP benefits to get an additional monthly amount for fresh produce. French Fagan said Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Ark., is a key sponsor.
"We have a one in five-year opportunity to address the inequity that exists in communities to access fresh fruits and vegetables," French Fagan emphasized. "This marker bill, as well as other marker bills, have been introduced to address different things. So, we are really grateful to Rep. Crawford for introducing this bill."
French Fagan pointed out a major goal of GusNIP is to increase people's consumption of foods to lower the risk of chronic medical conditions. In turn, it increases the demand for locally grown produce, which helps the local economy.
French Fagan stressed a lack of transportation is often an issue for people in rural areas. She noted GusNIP is managed by nonprofit organizations, which help in many rural communities without a grocer or a farmers market nearby.
"What this bill does is it expands the program, gives these organizations an opportunity to put programs where they don't exist," French Fagan explained. "This would give a rural community the opportunity to maybe have a farmstand, to maybe have a grocer set up a business there."
She added rural organizations have to be creative. Grant funding recently allowed a church in Fayetteville to place food lockers at its pantry for low-income families. The food is free and the lockers can hold both cold and hot foods people can sign up for online and pick up at their convenience.
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