Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to introduce the Community Gardening and Nutrition Act of 2014, legislation that creates a new pilot program within AmeriCorps VISTA focusing on creating and improving access to community gardens in areas with high poverty rates.
Community gardens have been shown to be very beneficial to the communities they serve. They improve quality of life, encourage self-reliance, and reduce family food budgets--all while producing highly nutritious food for participants. Additionally, community gardens create opportunities for recreation, social interaction, exercise, education, and economic development.
Providing new avenues for nourishment like the one in this legislation has become even more important since the recent cuts of $19 billion to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
A report released in August 2013 by the Union of Concerned Scientists concluded that if Americans ate one extra serving of fruits or vegetables daily, there would be approximately 30,000 fewer deaths from cardiovascular diseases and $5 billion saved in health care costs in our nation every year. Nearly 130,000 deaths would be prevented and $17 billion saved in medical costs if that amount was increased to an additional two and a half cups of vegetables and two cups of fruit daily. These figures highlight the importance of making healthy foods more easily available for those who would benefit from them the most.
Mr Speaker, my legislation is very straightforward. It requires the creation of at least 40 new community garden projects in both urban and rural areas suffering from high poverty rates. AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers in this program will work with members of these communities to establish new gardens, which will help to expand general anti-poverty efforts, teach basic nutrition, and help provide affordable healthy food options. Within 90 days of the completion of the program, the Director will submit to Congress a report describing the projects that were created, information about the volunteers that were placed, and a recommendation regarding continuation and expansion of the program.
I can think of no better way to mark the 50th anniversary of the war on poverty than to rededicate ourselves to the principle of improving people's lives. We can do this by increasing access to healthy foods and fighting health crises like the obesity epidemic.
Just last year, President Obama announced an expansion of the AmeriCorps program, led by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), to develop new strategies for expanding national service. This legislation could play a significant role in these efforts. The pilot program created within the Community Gardening and Nutrition Act of 2014 will help to educate about the importance of nutrition and empower Americans living in impoverished regions to be more self-reliant while increasing access to healthier foods. I urge my colleagues to join me in support of this legislation.