By Keli James, PR communications coordinatorStrikeForce

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) launched StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity in 2010. StrikeForce brings USDA’s resources and aid from other federal agencies including the private and philanthropy sector to poverty-stricken rural areas. The program is now in 880 counties in 21 states and Puerto Rico and some involve tribal reservations and pueblos, according to Indian Country Today Media Network. .

Many reservations lack safe or affordable infrastructure including stable roads and homes, clean water, electricity, broadband and cellphone access.

“Unfortunately, for many reasons, tribal communities are some of the poorest places in the United States,” Leslie Wheelock, director of the Office of Tribal Relations for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and a member of the Oneida Tribe of Wisconsin told Indian Country. “In fact, the two poorest counties in the U.S. are on Sioux reservations in South Dakota. A meaningful change in rural poverty must address all rural poverty – including that in tribal communities.”

More than $6.5 billion has been invested in StrikeForce for designated areas including Indian country to create or save 5,100 jobs, help 126,000 homeowners and provide 69 million meals to hungry kids during the summer, according to the USDA.