WASHINGTON — U.S. communities are invited to participate in Local Foods, Local Places, a federal initiative providing direct technical support to build strong local food systems as part of a community’s emerging economic action plans.
Under this effort, a team of agricultural, transportation, public health, environmental and regional economic experts will work directly with local communities to spur local economic growth and improve the quality of life for all residents.
Local food sales topped $11.7 billion in 2014 according to industry estimates, underscoring the economic benefit that a local food system can offer a community. USDA has invested more than $800 million in more than 29,100 local and regional food businesses and infrastructure projects over the past six years.
State by state analyses reaffirms that local food is “rapidly growing from a niche market to an integrated system recognized for its economic boost to communities across the country,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
“Local food creates new market opportunities for farmers, brings fresh meals into schools and other institutions, expands healthy food access to underserved communities and builds infrastructure needed to support ranchers and other meat processors. By investing in projects at the local level, this administration is encouraging growth in this sector and creating new opportunities for families who live in rural America.”
This is the second year of the Local Foods, Local Places program. In 2014, 26 rural and urban communities participated in the program. Local Foods, Local Places is a partnership between USDA, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Transportation, the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Delta Regional Authority. The effort is part of the White House Rural Council’s “Rural Impact” effort to improve quality of life and upward mobility for kids and families in rural and tribal communities. Together, the agencies are investing $800,000 to support this round of assistance.
Application guidelines and deadlines are available on line at http://www2.epa.gov/smart-growth/forms/local-foods-local-places-2015-2016-application
Since 2009, USDA has invested in 29,100 food hubs, small scale processing, farmers market and other opportunities in local food across all 50 states and the US territories. This includes USDA investments in the local food sector through over 12,000 microloans, smaller loans of up to $50,000 for small-scale producers who often sell products locally; and over 13,000 high tunnels, low-cost covered structures that extend the growing season and make locally-grown products available later into the year.