Multiple federal agencies are teaming up to help towns start "community-owned" grocery stores and farmers’ markets through an Obama administration initiative aimed at rural America.
"Local Foods, Local Places" is a joint endeavor led by six agencies, including the Departments of Agriculture and Transportation, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The initiative is spending over $800,000 in an effort to turn small towns into "hubs of healthy activity."
Twenty-seven communities were selected for the program’s latest round of projects, and each will receive roughly $30,000 through "focused technical assistance."
Recent projects highlighted by the initiative include a "series of community gardens that will supply food for a new farmers market and café" in Clarksdale, Mississippi. Another started a "community-owned" grocery store in Fallon, Nevada.
The new list of recipients includes the Rosebud Economic Development Corporation of the Sioux Tribe in Mission, South Dakota, will get the federal government’s help to "establish a hub of healthy activity centered on local food using a new trail system that links the local grocery store, community garden, farmers market, creek, and wetlands."
"Dallas, Texas, will receive technical assistance to form a local food branding campaign and an alliance of garden and farm enthusiasts to build public awareness, community cohesion, and relationships between growers and local businesses and help community gardens share expertise and increase the size and variety of their yields," according to one project’s description.
"Pallet gardens," "low-cost mobile food carts," and a "co-op grocery store" will be created in Middlesboro, Kentucky. The majority of the projects involve community gardens and farmers’ markets.
"The 27 communities selected for 2016 were chosen from more than 300 applicants," a press release on the initiative stated. "Each Local Foods, Local Places partner community works with a team of experts who help community members recognize local assets and opportunities, set goals for revitalizing downtowns and neighborhoods, develop an implementation plan and then identify targeted resources from the participating federal agencies to help implement those plans."
The program provides technical assistance rather than grants or loans. The USDA confirmed that the projects still involve taxpayer funding.
"Federal funding from the six agencies comes in the form of focused technical assistance over a period of months to help each recipient with community identify local assets and opportunities, with outreach and buy-in, and to develop an actionable plan that uses local foods to advance local objectives related to things like small food-related business development, access (transportation/walkability), health or related goals," David Glasgow, a USDA spokesperson, told the Washington Free Beacon.
"These goals vary based on the assets and capacity in each location," he said. "Plans developed also help identify potential resources for implementation so the plans generally lead to applications for funding through programs at the six partner agencies."
The EPA oversees the technical assistance and estimated the value each community receives is $30,000, though the amount can vary. Technical assistance for the 27 new projects will cost roughly $810,000.