White House Rural Council Blog

  • Tapping into the Economic Potential of Local Food Through Local Foods, Local Places

    In Jefferson City, Missouri, federal local food experts meet with community leaders to determine a successful site for a new farmers market

    In Jefferson City, Missouri, federal local food experts met with community leaders to determine a successful site for a new farmers market. This partnership was made possible by Local Foods, Local Places which helps communities integrate successful local food enterprises into their economic plans.

    At USDA, we understand the enormous market potential of local food. Industry estimates suggest that local food sales in America have nearly doubled in recent years, jumping from $5 billion in 2008 to $11.7 billion in 2014. We’ve invested more than $800 million in 29,100 local and regional food businesses and infrastructure projects over the past six years to help farmers, ranchers and rural businesses tap into that market.

    Indeed, local food is a national phenomenon that has significant impact on every state’s economy. But local food is not only a business opportunity for agriculture, it can also be a development tool that allows communities to maximize the impact of what is grown and made locally. Local food projects can help grow local food economies and drive downtown and neighborhood revitalization, which is what the Administration’s Local Foods, Local Places initiative is all about. And this year, the initiative is particularly focused on ensuring that kids and families in need have an opportunity to benefit from the development of local food systems. This initiative is part of the White House Rural Council’s “Rural Impact” effort to improve quality of life and upward mobility for kids and families in rural and tribal communities.

  • Serving More Summer Meals in Rural and Tribal Areas

    Children at the Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan Del Valle, TX

    Catholic Charities began their second year providing meals to children up to age 18 through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) to children at the Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan Del Valle, TX on May 24, 2012. The SFSP is a federally funded program that is administered by the states in which they reimburse organizations for meals served to children during the summer months. USDA photo. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture)

    During the school year, over 21 million children receive free and reduced-price breakfast and lunch each day through the USDA’s National School Lunch Program. But, when school is out, many children who rely on these meals go hungry. The challenge is particularly great in rural areas and Indian Country, where 15 percent of households are food insecure. In these areas, children and teens often live long distances from designated summer meal sites and lack access to public transportation.

    According to Feeding America, 43 percent of counties are rural, but they make up nearly two-thirds of counties with high rates of child food insecurity. The consequences are significant. Several studies have found that food insecurity impacts cognitive development among young children and contributes to poorer school performance, greater likelihood of illness, and higher health costs.

    The Obama administration has addressed the challenge head-on, investing unprecedented energy and resources to increasing participation in the USDA’s Summer Food Service Program.

  • Ensuring that All Native Youth Can Reach Their Full Potential

    Nearly half of Native American people (42 percent) are under the age of 24; more than one-third of Native children live in poverty; and Native youth have the lowest high school graduation rate of students across all schools, according to a recent White House report.

    Last week, I visited Riverside Indian School in Anadarko, OK, a school operated by the Department of the Interior's Bureau of Indian Education (BIE), to meet with students and school officials, tour the facilities, and host a roundtable discussion. Most importantly, I wanted to hear from kids and families about what's working and how we as a federal government can better serve tribal communities. As we know, the best ideas rarely come from Washington, D.C., but instead from local communities responding to local challenges. The visit was part of the President's Generation Indigenous ("Gen-I") initiative to remove barriers and ensure that all young Native people can reach their full potential.

  • Creating Opportunity for All in Rural Communities

    Rural America provides the vast majority of food and energy benefits for the rest of the country, is the source of nearly 90 percent of renewable water resources, and is home to important service sector and manufacturing hubs. Despite this critical role in our nation’s economy, too many Americans in rural areas are not sharing in our nation’s economic growth.

    In 2013, 6.2 million Americans in rural areas lived in poverty, including about 1.5 million children. Moreover, in far too many of these communities, high rates of poverty have persisted for generations: Over 300 rural counties have had poverty rates of over 20 percent in every Census since 1980.

    While the fight to eliminate poverty is far from over, today, as part of the White House Rural Council’s ongoing efforts to address rural child poverty, we released a report that finds that programs like refundable tax credits, Social Security, SNAP, and housing assistance lifted about 9.0 million rural people out of poverty in 2013, including about 1.6 million children.

  • Rural Communities Rising to the (i6) Challenge

    The American innovative and entrepreneurial spirit has long provided a foundation for our strong economy. This is no less true in rural regions.

    In its new form as part of EDA’s Regional Innovation Strategies (RIS) Program, the 2014 i6 Challenge aimed to make targeted, strategic investments in a broader range of communities.

    Of the more than 240 applications that EDA received for RIS Program funds, rural and other non-metropolitan communities represented a substantial subset of both the i6 Challenge and the Cluster Grants for Seed Capital Funds competition.

    EDA recently announced the 2014 grantees for these competitions, and a number of rural applicants submitted compelling proposals to catalyze innovation-based economic development in their communities. In light of President Obama’s recent announcement of the i6 Rural Challenge, we want to highlight some of the 2014 RIS Program’s rural grantees.

    These grantees stand out not only for having identified underutilized or unconnected resources but also for developing promising programs to help utilize those resources, to connect them to rural innovators and entrepreneurs, and ultimately to stimulate the creation and growth, from the ground up, of sustainable, job-creating companies.

  • Embracing Technology to Support Healthy Kids in Rural America

    Rural children living in poverty face a range of health and human service needs, yet often lack access to quality clinical and social, human, child development and family support services. The implications are stark. A newly released HHS chartbook shows that rural children face greater health risks and are less likely to get preventive care, compared to their suburban and urban counterparts.  

    Children receiving a preventive medical care visit in the previous year

    HHS, in partnership with the White House Rural Council's new “Rural Impact” effort to combat rural child poverty, is exploring innovative new strategies to better serve rural kids and families. Today, HHS's Federal Office of Rural Health Policy is announcing new funding to bridge the gap between rural families and critical health and social services. The program—totaling $2.8 million over three years—will support telehealth technology linking children in rural communities to medical specialists and social service resources that may not be available locally.  

    Imagine: a child living in a remote rural community can be seen and diagnosed for autism over the internet by a specialist based hundreds of miles away.

    Or a child with diabetes can receive primary care at their rural health clinic and then connect remotely to an endocrinologist in another city.  At the same time, his family can receive nutrition counseling and, if food security is a challenge, be directed to a food bank.