USDA increases food aid to Flint

Jacob Carah
Special to The Detroit News

Nutritional support for Flint families has expanded, the U.S. Agriculture Department announced Wednesday.

The program will provide additional 14-pounds of “nutrient targeted food packages,” filled with foods that are dense in calcium, iron and Vitamin C, which are shown to limit the absorption of lead in the body.

The packages will have an overall reach to some “17,000 low-income, Flint-area households,” the department said. Under Secretary Kevin Concannon said Flint residents need “ consistent access to healthy food that can help fight the ill effects of the lead crisis.”

“People need more help,” said Concannon. “The effects of the water and high rate of poverty seen across Genesee County raises the stakes.”

The expansion of services and food availability is part of efforts the USDA taken to provide more nutritional meals to Flint kids and surrounding Genesee County in the wake of Flint’s water contamination.

The program begins in September to coincide with when the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services' $1 million food distribution initiative though the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan’s mobile food pantry program is expected to expire.

“Their funding ends, I believe in the middle of September, and we will be there to pick up that provision,” Concannon said.

According to Concannon, Genesee county and its surrounding area will see the largest expansion of what is called a Summer Electronic Benefit Card. This way, he said, some 39,000 schoolchildren will get a $30 benefit for meals in the summer months.

Concannon said the program is paid for in part from USDA Child Nutrition funding, and the food packages will be paid from by the Emergency Food Assistance Program.

Concannon said the USDA looked for funds that could be directed to Flint.

“We also found about $63,000 that went into fruits and vegetables, that will be going towards the schools,” he said.