ICYMI: Feds Raise Alarm About State of Georgia Declining Federal Funding to Help Feed Georgia Children

January 25, 2024

Yesterday, during a panel discussion at Tri-Cities High School in East Point, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack urged Georgians to lobby their state officials to participate in programs set to help feed Georgia children. These programs were in the news earlier this month after Gov. Brian Kemp opted Georgia out of the Summer EBT program, which gives qualifying families $40 a month per eligible child for groceries during the summer months.  

Expanding these programs would bring $138 million in federal dollars into the state and benefit 1.1 million eligible Georgia kids.

The State of Georgia laughably claimed they opted out of the federally-funded program because it lacked nutrition requirements, a position seen as completely blind to the hunger experienced by Georgia children. Sec. Vilsack dismantled these claims by Governor Kemp’s office, noting that the USDA has 10 years of data showing these programs give kids greater access to nutritious food, especially fresh fruits and vegetables.

“This panel is a perfect encapsulation of the differences between the two parties today,” said DPG spokesperson Alex Yerkey. “On one side, there are Democrats at the federal, state, and local levels working together to bring $138 million to feed hungry children, help Georgia farmers, and create local jobs. And on the other side, you have Governor Kemp just saying no.”

The panel discussion—organized to promote the Biden administration’s National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health, which has a goal to end hunger and increase healthy eating by 2030—also featured Georgia State Representative Carl Gilliard, D-162. Rep. Gilliard said he soon plans to introduce new legislation, dubbed the “No Georgia Child Left Behind” bill, to ensure adequate summer food access for children.

Read the story from AJC below:

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: USDA Sec. Vilsack: Year-round school meals help kids, farmers

Jim Gaines, 1/24/2024

Key Points:

  • Federal Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams, and others urged the public Tuesday to lobby Georgia officials to maintain and expand summer food programs for schoolkids.
  • “Thirty-five states, the District of Columbia, all the territories and four (Native American) tribes have agreed to participate fully and completely in a summer meal program,” Vilsack said. Georgia is not one of those states.
  • Vilsack said Gov. Brian Kemp has expressed concern that no nutrition guidelines are attached to the food programs, but the USDA has 10 years of results from a pilot program that shows the programs give kids more access to fruits and vegetables, and more nutritious food in general, he said.
  • Agreeing to expand the summer food programs would serve 1.1 million Georgia students, and bring in $138 million in federal dollars, Vilsack said. That money would circulate through the supply chain, aiding local farmers and supporting jobs as well, he said. “It’s not just about nutrition for kids,” Vilsack said.
  • State Rep. Carl Gilliard, D-162, said he plans to introduce a bill in the General Assembly, dubbed the “Leave No Georgia Child Behind” bill, to offer wraparound services and summer food access for children. People in often-poor rural areas depend on school lunches for good meals, he said.
  • Another aspect of USDA policy that panelists praised and promoted is the “farm-to-school program,” which buys food from Georgia farms for school cafeterias and teaches students about farming. Georgia gets a $7.1 million federal grant to source school foods locally, making those a major part of school lunches statewide, Dodson said.


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