New USU-Based Utah Food Safety Board | News, Sports, Jobs

Students serving at USU’s Student Nutrition Access Center (SNAC), USU’s food pantry, whose mission is to increase access to nutritious food and provide education.


One in 10 Utah families is food insecure and more than 102,000 Utah families cannot afford to buy enough food, according to the 2020 annual “Home Food Security in the United States” report.

To coordinate efforts to alleviate Utah’s growing hunger problem, the Utah Food Security Council was formed during the 2022 Utah legislative session. Sponsored by Utah Senator Luz Escamilla, the council will be based at Utah State University and will help provide recommendations to lawmakers. In addition to the Utah State University Extension, the board includes the Utah Farm Bureau, the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food, the Utah Department of Health, Utahns Against Hunger, and other agencies working on food safety efforts.

Heidi LeBlanc, director of the USU Hunger Solutions Institute and the Create Better Health Utah (SNAP-Ed) program, believes USU is the perfect home for the Utah Food Safety Board.

“The USU Hunger Solutions Institute already exists as an integrated academic, outreach, and community organization dedicated to finding solutions to Hunger in Utah,” she said. “Now, by hosting this new council, we will be able to increase partnerships and collaborations at the state and popular levels. We will strive to provide solutions, brainstorm ideas and create innovations that help individuals and families who are wondering where their next meal will come from to achieve food security.”

In 2020, Senator Escamilla introduced Senate Bill 141, Task Force on Food Security, to develop a plan to establish food security in the state.

“Food insecurity is one of the most pressing issues facing Utahns, and I look forward to the significant policy recommendations and initiatives that will come from the Food Security Council,” she said. “In the waning days of the 2022 legislative session, my bill to codify and establish the board of Utah State University was one of my top priorities. To effectively deal with complex problems in our state, thoughtful actions and a variety of knowledge and lived experiences must be at the forefront. Board members intentionally incorporate a variety of professions and stakeholders to work closely on statewide goals and strategize comprehensive solutions to address food insecurity, including increasing support for our local farmers and producers.”

The goals of the Utah Food Safety Board include:

1) Increase economic security for all individuals in the state; 2) Increase public awareness and understanding that ending hunger is vital to the health and well-being of the state’s residents, economy, and communities; 3) Increase access to affordable, nutritious and culturally appropriate food within the community where the individual lives; 4) Increase the number of individuals who can access nutritious food assistance through community-based organizations; 5) Maximize enrollment in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to improve access to food and nutrition education; 6) Improve children’s health by optimizing participation in federal child nutrition programs; and 7) Eliminate barriers to older people’s access to food security.

LeBlanc said the food safety board will also look at the big picture of access to healthy foods and groceries in Utah to make better policy decisions.

“Food insecurity is often a symptom of broader financial insecurity,” she said. “Food is often one of the only variable expenses for budget-tight families, as opposed to car payments, rent, etc., meaning it’s often the first expense to cut. The Utah Food Security Council will be of great assistance in implementing lasting policy solutions to help increase access to food for all Utahns.”

The board held its first meeting in June, where co-chairs were selected and three working groups were established to identify recommendations for the Utah Legislature. They include economic stability, politics and access to healthy foods, and community food and outreach resources.

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New USU-Based Utah Food Safety Board | News, Sports, Jobs

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