USDA expanding program to fight rural poverty

By MEG KINNARD | March 26, 2013 | 1:30 PM EDT

FILE - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack speaks at Maine Medical Center, in this March, 14, 2013 file photo taken in Portland, Maine. Vilsack was expected in South Carolina on Tuesday to announce the expansion of the so-called StrikeForce initiative, a program intended to reduce poverty and improve life in rural areas, which already operates in 10 states. The program will now also be available in the Carolinas, the Dakotas, Alabama and Virginia. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The U.S. Department of Agriculture is expanding a program intended to reduce poverty and improve life in rural areas through better access to federal money.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced the expansion of the so-called Strikeforce Initiative during a visit to South Carolina's Statehouse on Tuesday.

Strikeforce is designed to help relieve persistent rural poverty by making it easier for people to get their hands on money that is available from the USDA but may be hard to access. Vilsack said the program is flexible to help communities where they need it most.

The federal money helps farmers, food producers and other businesses fund projects such as community gardens and summer meals for low-income school children.