Gov. Terry McAuliffe issued an executive order Thursday to help improve access to nutritious food in Virginia. The order established the Commonwealth Council on Bridging the Nutritional Divide, with First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe serving as chair.
The initiative has three sections, addressing childhood hunger, Virginia’s agricultural sector, and statewide access to food and healthy living.
“In order to cultivate and sustain economic success, all Virginians, especially children and young adults, must have access to nutritious, affordable, and locally-sourced foods that will enable them to learn, grow, and thrive,” the executive order said.
The order calls for improved accessibility to food and nutrition for children through increased participation in various meal access programs, including the Summer Food Service Program, which offers meals to children in need during the summer, and the Child and Adult Care Food Program, which provides aid to institutions that offer food for young children, older adults and the chronically disabled.
The executive order also aims to broaden eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and other nutritional programs targeted at women and children, as well as widened acceptance of SNAP benefits at farmers’ markets and improving farm-to-institution programs.
The Virginia Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics responded positively to the formation of the Council, and President Wendy Phillips emphasized the importance of the issues the council will address.
The Virginia Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has submitted a request for a spot for one of their dieticians on the council.
The Council will also help coordinate local efforts and communication. Phillips said she believes the most important thing Virginia can do to improve food access and health strategies is educate the public.
“The plan shall include quantifiable metrics and associated goals for each objective, and progress toward achieving these goals shall be made available to the public via an online scorecard,” the executive order said.
The Executive Order took effect immediately Nov. 20, and will be in place until January 12, 2018.