WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that USDA will invest in research, planning, and various hunger relief activities to help end hunger in America. The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, also known as the Farm Bill, authorizes $5 million in funding under the new Hunger-Free Communities grants to deliver help to Americans in need.

"Hunger is a problem that the American sense of fairness should not tolerate and American ingenuity can overcome," said Secretary Vilsack. "That's why we have set the goal of ending childhood hunger by 2015 and support rapid passage of a strong Child Nutrition Reauthorization bill that will reduce hunger and improve the health and nutrition of our Nation's children. Through these new Hunger-Free Community grants, our strong partnerships at the National, State and local levels will be pivotal in providing better access to food and a more healthful diet for our Nation's most vulnerable."

Despite record participation in Federal nutrition assistance programs, food insecurity still persists. USDA's study, Household Food Security in the United States, 2008, reported that 14.6 percent, or 17 million households, were food insecure. These households, at some time during the year, had difficulty providing enough food for all their members due to a lack of resources.

Through the grants, FNS seeks strategies that support the creation of Hunger-Free Communities by funding activities including food distribution, community outreach, resource development and other methods to make food more accessible to those most in need.

One million will fund Planning and Assessment Grants to evaluate food insecurity in communities and develop strategies to become hunger-free. The remaining $4 million will support Implementation Grants for communities that already have a plan to end hunger and need resources for program implementation.

The grants are available to public and not-for-profit organizations and require collaboration with one or more community partners. Grant applications may be submitted by email to: HungerFreeCommunities@fns.usda.gov or through www.grants.gov.

Improving USDA's child nutrition programs are a top priority of the Obama Administration. Congress is currently considering legislation to bolster the Child Nutrition Act, which authorizes the National School Lunch, School Breakfast, and Summer Food Service Programs. These programs serve nearly 32 million children each school day and work in concert to form a national safety net against hunger. Improving the Child Nutrition Act is the legislative centerpiece of First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! Campaign and highlighted in the White House report Solving the Problem of Childhood Obesity Within a Generation released Tuesday, May 11. By passing strong reauthorization legislation, the Administration hopes to reduce hunger, promote access, and improve the overall health and nutrition of children throughout the country.