USDA Supports Diverse Food Access Through Farmers Market Promotion Program Grants
WASHINGTON, Oct. 13, 2011. Nearly 150 farm-to-consumer marketing projects received funding today under the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP), marking a $9.2 million investment to support direct marketing and to increase consumer access to healthy food, much of it in food deserts and other low-income areas. This year's awards-- 149 in total, distributed across 42 states and the District of Columbia-- showed a rise in urban projects and increased diversity in the types of projects funded.
"Earlier this year, we reported that more than 1,000 new farmers markets have been recorded across the United States, totaling 7,175 markets," said Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan. "Through programs like FMPP, we believe that USDA's contributions to direct farm-to-consumer marketing are providing alternative economic opportunities for our nation's agricultural producers."
Traditionally, FMPP has funded projects in both rural and urban areas. However, this year saw a shift toward a more even distribution, with urban projects growing to nearly half of the portfolio. "In addition to funding many worthy start-up farmers markets, I was particularly pleased to note a rise in the number of innovative projects like those that create or expand community-supported agriculture programs (CSAs), agritourism, and mobile markets," Merrigan added.
Increasing fresh food access in food deserts – low-income areas identified as having limited access to affordable and nutritious food – and other low-income communities was a priority for this year's awards. As a result, over 40 percent of projects funded by FMPP this year serve one or more food deserts and another 20 percent will be implemented in communities with a poverty rate of 20 percent or higher.
Additionally, improvements in transportation and delivery methods, purchase of refrigeration equipment and improvements to packaging and storage that facilitate food access comprise nearly a third of the projects funded. Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) projects continue to exceed the congressionally mandated 10 percent, accounting for approximately 24 percent of total funding which gives participants in federal nutrition assistance programs even greater access to nutritious food.
Among the more innovative projects this year are:
• Renaissance Project of New Orleans, which will operate food banks and mobile produce markets at social service agencies and public housing facilities in New Orleans, La.
• Round Valley Indian Health Inc., which will develop a program to provide locally raised products to schools in Covelo, Calif., through a CSA.
• EcoStation: NY, Inc., which will purchase, operate and staff a solar- and biodiesel-powered refrigerated mobile market in low-income areas of Kings County, N.Y.
• Lulus Local Food of Richmond, Va., which will establish four virtual online farmers markets and also provide farmers the opportunity to participate in a related gleaning program.
• Oregon Cheese Guild, which will work with Oregon cheese makers to create an "Oregon Cheese Trail" through a comprehensive agritourism and media outreach initiative.
Since its inception in 2006, the Farmers Marketing Promotion Program has awarded more than $23 million across the country to support direct producer-to-consumer marketing and local food projects. FMPP is administered by the Agricultural Marketing Service. Projects are expected to be completed within 24 months of initiation. The full list of awards granted for fiscal year 2011 is available at http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/FMPP.