The Delta Grassroots Caucus (DGC) is a broad coalition of grassroots leaders in the eight-state Delta region. DGC is also a founding partner of the Economic Equality Caucus,
which advocates for economic equality across the USA.

National Service Act to Expand Nutrition and Rural Development Work

Posted on April 21, 2009 at 03:11 PM

We would like to relay this message about a new act that was passed with bipartisan support in Congress and signed into law today by President Obama that will expand involvement of national service participants and volunteers in anti-hunger and rural development work. The law is the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, and the message is from Joel Berg, executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger; we are sending this out because of the great importance of hunger and poverty issues in the Greater Delta Region.

Although Joel Berg is now based in New York, he accomplished many meritorious projects in the Delta region when he served at USDA in the Clinton administration. He was instrumental in launching the AmeriCorps program under President Clinton in 1993-95, and later was a key aide to USDA Secretary Dan Glickman on federal nutrition programs in the Clinton years. Mr. Berg frequently advises the Delta Caucus on nutrition issues today.

Please note that the new law will expand the Americorps national service program from the current level of 75,000 to a target of 250,000 participants nationally, and also has language clarifying that AmeriCorps participants can work on a wide range of projects fighting hunger, improving nutrition and reducing poverty. Rural development projects are also included. This is constructive legislation for the region and the country. Lee Powell, MDGC

New Obama / Kennedy Service Law to Expand Hunger Fight

Advocates Call Bill a “Quantum Leap Forward” in Civic Engagement

CONTACT: Alexandra Yannias, (212) 825-0028, ext. 212

The Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, signed into law today by President Obama after passing Congress with bi-partisan support, has the potential to significantly increase the involvement of national service participants and volunteers in anti-hunger activities, advocates said.

The new law not only expands the AmeriCorps national service program (a domestic Peace Corps that allows Americans to provide significant community service in exchange for educational awards) from the current level of 75,000 to a target level of 250,000 participants nationwide, but it also contains language making it clearer that AmeriCorps members can work on a wide range of projects to fight hunger, boost nutrition, and reduce poverty.

Joel Berg, the executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, has a unique perspective on the new law, having previously served in the Clinton Administration helping launch the AmeriCorps Program in 1993-1995, as well as currently running a nonprofit group that depends heavily upon AmeriCorps members. “The new law is a quantum leap forward in civic engagement, and it can dramatically increase the number of Americans engaged in long-term activities to fight hunger,” said Berg.

Berg said, “The top things we need to do to end hunger in America are to create living wage jobs and to expand and modernize the federal nutrition assistance safety net. AmeriCorps national service participants, who serve full or part-time for a year or work full-time for a summer, can significantly advance those goals, as well as help charities fill in the food gaps for hungry Americans. Such efforts achieve concrete, measurable results in neighborhoods nationwide, while building a sense of community, promoting personal responsibility, and expanding educational opportunity. We are thrilled that the President and Congress are sending a clear message that community service is a centerpiece of citizenship, and we commend Governor Paterson and Mayor Bloomberg for taking steps to make service both practical and useful.”

AmeriCorps members sponsored by the New York City Coalition Against Hunger have: helped staff federally-funded summer food service sites for low-income kids; expanded community gardens; increased the use of food stamp (SNAP) benefits at farmers’ markets; assisted low-income working families in obtaining tax refunds; staffed faith-based and secular food pantries and soup kitchens; helped families enroll in federal nutrition assistance programs; increased coordination between community-based agencies; and helped feeding agencies obtain more volunteers, money, and food.

Continued Berg, “We know that AmeriCorps anti-hunger projects can work because they already have worked. The new language in the bill only strengthens our case that a significant number of the new AmeriCorps slots should be allotted for anti-hunger projects. We look forward to working with the federal, state, and local governments in ensuring that the expansion of such efforts is as effective as it is rapid.”