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USDA recommends combining admin for all fed funded local food programs

A US Department of Agriculture (USDA) delegation has recommended to Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga to bring together under one ASG office four federally funded food programs, administered by the three local departments, says Education director Vaitinasa Dr. Salu Hunkin-Finau during her monthly news conference last Thursday.


The four food programs are: school lunch program, administered by local Education Department; Women and Infant Children (WIC) and supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP) — both administered by Human and Social Service Department (DHSS); and the hot meal food program for the elderly, overseen by the Territorial Administration on Aging (TAOA).


The four-member USDA delegation, which spent last week in the territory, was from the San Francisco based Western Region, Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) and led by Regional Administrator Jesus Mendoza Jr.


During the news conference Vaitinasa told reporters about the Western Region delegation’s visit meeting earlier in the day (last Thursday) with the governor, lieutenant governor as well as ASG representatives of the WIC and SNAP programs, food for the elderly and school lunch — all food related programs.


“We had a wonderful meeting,” Vaitinasa said, adding that the delegation summarized their visitation as well as some of the “areas of need” for the three ASG departments overseeing the four food programs.


“One of the major the governor is to try and bring all of these [food] programs together,” Vaitinasa told reporters. “It’s common sense that all these programs should come together and support each other.”


Responding to Samoa New inquiries, the governor’s executive assistant, Iulogologo Joseph Pereria says he didn’t attend the meeting with the federal delegation, but said, “it’s understandable why this move is being recommended to streamline the process involved with these federal programs targeting the low and moderate income earners of the Territory.”


Also discussed during the meeting, says Vaitinasa, is the “high risk status, of the programs because of the systems in which the programs are been administered — both financially and programmatic.”


Vaitinasa didn’t elaborate further on the “high risk status”, but she did say that Mendoza made clear to the governor that “where they can help they will be happy to help [ASG] and they’ve seen a tremendous amount of improvement with regards to these programs” since the Lolo Administration took office in 2013.


For the school lunch program, Vaitinasa says it’s very important that ASDOE continues to comply with all federal regulations especially since ASDOE has received $17 million every year since she’s been director.


“We also received $2 million for the farmers’ produce — that’s a program going on for 10 years to advocate for more fresh locally grown food included and integrated into the school lunch program,” she explained. “So all together, it’s $19 million a year for the school lunch [where] we provide 30,000 meals a day for students from Day Care centers to high schools.”


And with this much money pouring into the territory under the school lunch program, Vaitinasa expressed her gratitude to the federal grantor.


According to DHSS’ FY 2016 budget, $7.53 million is for ASNAP (American Nutrition Assistance Program) and $7.48 million for WIC program. For TAOA, its FY 2016 budget shows $1.32 million for the hot meal program.


Samoa News notes that USDA’s FNS funds the school lunch program, WIC and SNAP, while the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration on Aging carries out provisions of the federal Older American Act, that includes funding for the hot meal program.