Phoenix, AZ, Jul 10, 2013 -- Orangewood Church in west Phoenix recently hosted more than 100 participants, as well as representatives of several USDA agencies and their partners, for the Arizona kick-off of the USDA StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity and a presentation on the Department’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food (KYF2) Initiative.
StrikeForce is a United States Department of Agriculture initiative designed to increase partnerships with rural communities and leverage community resources in targeted persistent poverty areas. Some 90 percent of America’s persistent poverty areas are rural. Arizona, which recently received the StrikeForce designation, ranks among the top ten states in poverty.
StrikeForce addresses a spectrum of issues in targeted areas. In Arizona, the initial emphasis is on increasing accessibility in these communities to healthy, local foods.
KYF2 coordinates USDA resources to help communities develop strong local and regional food systems. These efforts stimulate economic development and job generation in rural America; foster new market opportunities for farmers and ranchers; and expand access to affordable fresh and local food.
Lisa Pino, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Agriculture for Civil Rights, was the facilitator for the all-day meeting. Pino, who holds a law degree from Arizona State University, has been focused for much of her career on food and nutrition assistance programs for low-income children, individuals, and families.
The participants included a diverse representation of folks including farmers, producers, tribes, elected officials, towns, growers, gardeners, entrepreneurs, community action
associations, faith-based leaders, farmers markets, and food banks. USDA agencies met with the participants in small groups to talk about programs, resources, technical assistance and funding available to help bring good nutrition choices to Arizona’s food deserts. For many of the attendees, the opportunity to meet and network with other folks doing the same work around the state was an additional take away.
“At the end of the day, many of the participants met informally and decided to continue to meet regularly,” Pino said. “That commitment keeps the momentum going and offers great hope for getting wholesome food to Arizona’s pockets of poverty. This special event reflects USDA’s commitment to supporting Arizona’s local and regional food production, and our dedication to empowering rural communities in Arizona.”
Reverend Eve Nuñez, a pastor at Orangewood Church, hosted USDA for the event. The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) also partnered in the event.
In 2012, Rev. Nuñez was selected by the White House as a Champion of Change for her work in coordinating USDA’s Summer Food Service Program. She founded the Help 4 Kidz organization which fed 20,000 children last summer. Help 4 Kidz also works with at risk children and young adults and provides food boxes for homeless families in the valley. Nuñez also heads the Arizona Latino Commission which serves clients with housing needs and foreclosure prevention. In her early years, Nuñez was a volunteer with farmworker rights activist Cesar Chavez.
USDA has 17 agencies that provide assistance to farmers, ranchers, consumers and rural communities. Presenters at the Arizona StrikeForce/KYF2 meeting included the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Rural Development, the Farm Service Agency, the Food and Nutrition Service, Risk Management Agency, Food Safety and Inspection Service, Agricultural Marketing Service, the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights and Cooperative Extension.
For more information on KYF2 and StrikeForce, go to: www.usda.gov/knowyourfarmer, and http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?navid=STRIKE_FORCE
USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (866) 632-9992 (Toll-free Customer Service), (800) 877-8339 (Local or Federal relay), (866) 377-8642 (Relay voice users)