Heifer USA plants Seeds of Change in Appalachia and the Arkansas Delta to grow jobs, improve health and end American poverty.
For many Americans, malnutrition means swollen bellies and jutting ribs in countries far away. But hunger and disease caused by poor diets happen in the United States far more often than you might expect. In 2010, nearly 50 million Americans lived in households where there simply wasn't enough money to buy adequate amounts of nutritious foods. That's why Heifer International is starting a bold new initiative here in the United States.
Heifer's Seeds of Change will initially focus on two of the most severely impoverished areas in the United States, the Arkansas Delta and Appalachia. These regions are marked by fertile soil and strong agricultural traditions, but small-scale farmers there still find it hard to make a living. While the raw ingredients for a strong local food economy are in place, many people in the Delta and Appalachia are malnourished. By boosting production and marketing capacity of local, small-scale farmers and helping to make locally grown produce more accessible, the Seeds of Change project aims to boost nutrition and economies in places that need help most.
Poverty rates in the South are rising faster than anywhere else in the country. In parts of the Appalachian regions of North Carolina and Tennessee, almost one in three children go hungry at least part of the time because there's simply not enough money for food. In the Arkansas Delta, nearly one in four people are food insecure, meaning they're not certain where their next meal will come from, or if it will even materialize at all.
And then there's the other side of the coin. While nutritious food is often too pricey or hard to find, junk food costs little and is easy to come by. As a result, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and other diseases directly linked to poor nutrition are on the rise.
A reinvigorated network of small- and medium-scale farmers tied into their local and regional economies could change that, and farmers like Everette Woods want to be part of it. Woods' 250-acre farm in Colt, Ark., spills over multiple fields and across a grid of tree lines, but it's a fairly tiny operation compared to most working farms in the region. Previous generations of Woods' family worked up to 1,000 acres to raise hogs and grow rice, wheat, vegetables and soybeans. The land is still just as fertile; it's the economic landscape that changed.
"Most of the small farmers have gotten out," Woods said. He spent decades as a long-haul trucker to support his wife and children, but after retirement he came back to the soil. Woods farms because he loves it, and because he wants his children and grandchildren to love it, too. "I want to try to keep it in the family. This is what our forebears worked hard to achieve."
Working with his son and with a bit of help from his seven grandchildren, Woods breaks even each year. But what if he and other small farmers in the Delta could do better than that? What if they could once again thrive?
Through Heifer's Seeds of Change, farmers will get the agricultural materials, equipment and training in sustainable business development, agriculture production and distribution processes they need to grow and market healthy food to improve nutrition and boost local economies.
Won't you join Heifer in this bold new initiative to give American families the dignity of self-reliance? Support Heifer USA's Seeds of Change Initiative.