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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

News Release: USDA Joins Fair Food Network, State and Local Partners to Promote Nutrition Resources for Lead-Affected Flint Residents

FLINT, Mich., April 26, 2016 – Today, Dr. Katie Wilson, USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services, attended an event at the Flint Farmers’ Market to increase awareness of all the ways residents can leverage USDA’s nutrition programs to mitigate the effects of the lead crisis on their health.  The event featured presentations by state and local USDA nutrition assistance program partners, as well as information booths, a cooking demo, and a SNAP nutrition education class conducted by Michigan State University Extension. The presenters highlighted the broad array of USDA nutrition assistance programs available to assist lead-affected adults and children.

“To respond to the ongoing public health crisis in Flint, USDA is working tirelessly to maximize the impact of programs and resources that can help those affected by the water crisis,” said Dr. Wilson. “Although nothing can undo lead exposure completely, ensuring proper nutrition, particularly foods high in calcium, Vitamin C and iron, is critical to mitigating absorption in the body. USDA is collaborating with Michigan and local partners to pool our resources and collectively best serve the residents of Flint.”

Wilson was joined by Fair Food Network President and CEO Oran Hesterman who announced an expansion of its Double Up Food Bucks healthy food incentive program in Flint. The Double Up Food Bucks program will expand to more locations in Flint and will run year-round, as is currently done at the Flint Farmers Market. At all sites in Flint, including groceries and farmers markets—any fruit, vegetable, or milk purchase will earn matching Double Up Food Bucks (up to $20 a day) that can be spent on any additional fresh produce. New transaction technology will allow Double Up users to carry their benefits between the farmers market and participating groceries in Flint. This will be the first time benefits will be electronically transferrable between different types of retail locations in any SNAP incentive program in the country.

Funding for Double Up in Flint is being provided by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive program, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services with additional support from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, Community Foundation of Greater Flint, The Kresge Foundation, Ruth Mott Foundation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and the You Have Our Trust Fund of the NH Charitable Foundation.

USDA is committed to assisting residents affected by the Flint water crisis. Some examples of resources Flint residents can use include:

  • USDA’s Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) provides high-quality, 100 percent American-produced USDA Foods to food banks.  USDA Foods available through TEFAP include many foods high in the targeted nutrients of vitamin C, calcium, and iron. The Food Bank of Eastern Michigan in Flint is distributing those USDA Foods to their food pantries and other partner agencies.

  • SNAP-Ed, USDA’s nutrition education program for SNAP-eligible clients, is operated by Michigan State University Cooperative Extension and the Michigan Fitness Foundation and their local partners.  The Michigan SNAP-Ed partners have been highly involved in educating the community on optimizing their diet and food preparation techniques to combat ill effects of lead. MSU has created and distributed 24,000 copies of a fact sheet called Fight Lead with Nutrition Exit Icon” throughout the Flint area.  They are currently developing Spanish, Arabic and Chinese versions of this fact sheet.  In addition, they leveraged their existing relationships with the agricultural community to broker the support of the Michigan Milk Producers Association and Kroger Co., who donated and shipped 12,000 gallons of milk to Flint.

  • The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) can reach younger children and infants. The more than 7,500 Flint residents participating in WIC are being offered supportive services as well as nutrition education on mitigating lead absorption through dietary changes.  In addition, earlier this year, the program announced it would temporarily allow WIC funds to be used for lead blood tests in the Flint area and USDA has allowed mothers of non-breastfed infants in the Flint area to use WIC benefits to purchase ready-to-feed infant formula.

  • USDA recently announced that Flint students who are eligible for free and reduced price meals during the school year will be eligible to receive $30 per month in Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) benefits this summer to ensure their healthy eating habits can continue when school is not in session. The benefits can be redeemed for healthy food purchases at authorized grocery stores.

Since children may be especially vulnerable to the ill-effects of the water crisis, USDA is promoting access to healthy school meals, rich in vitamins and nutrients that may help mitigate the effects of lead in the bloodstream, by encouraging all eligible Flint-area schools to consider participating in the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), which ensures access to school meals at no cost to all students, and supporting those who elect to implement. In the affected Flint area, at least 28 schools, serving over 144,000 students, are eligible to adopt this provision.

For more information about USDA's support for those affected by the Flint lead crisis, please see USDA’s Flint Fact Sheet.

USDA's Food and Nutrition Service administers 15 nutrition assistance programs that, together, comprise America's nutrition safety net. They include school lunch and breakfast, WIC, TEFAP, SNAP, summer meals programs, and more. For more information, visit www.fns.usda.gov.



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  • This page last reviewed: April 28, 2016