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Federal, philanthropic partners join to strengthen local food supply chains

 

USDA

 

ATLANTA - U.S. Department of Agriculture officials on March 31 joined 15 national and regional philanthropic partners to announce a new initiative to bolster the supply chain for local food systems around 10 key U.S. cities.

The project, dubbed 'Food LINC', will connect demand for local food in 10 urban areas with supply from farmers and ranchers, strengthening each region's local food business sector and also increasing consumer access to healthy, local food. The announcement was made at the Wallace Center's National Food Hub Conference in Atlanta.

 

"USDA, the Appalachian Regional Commission, and the Delta Regional Authority recognized that our investments in local food infrastructure have the most success in communities with strong coordination between producers, food purchasers, and access to shared resources. Food LINC aims to replicate that coordination in 10 cities to create market opportunities for the areas' producers, meet demand for locally produced food, and create or sustain jobs along that local supply chain," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. "More than 160,000 farmers are tapping into demand for local and regional foods, and industry estimates predict more growth in the next several years. With the help from our partners, USDA can 'supercharge' our resources to create lasting impacts for farmers, ranchers, and rural communities as a whole."

Nearly $3 million in combined private and federal funding will support coordination by a host organization in each city. A full-time Food LINC coordinator will be embedded in each host organization for up to three years. The knowledge gained through their experiences will help the partnership determine next steps to link producers and entrepreneurs with families and institutional consumers to develop more robust local and regional food systems.

USDA, the ARC, and the DRA have committed $850,000 in public funds to the project, leveraging an additional $2 million so far from private philanthropic partners.

Host organizations include Louisville's Farm to Table, Kentucky; Common Market Georgia; the Conservation Fund in North Carolina; Rocky Mountain Farmers Union in Colorado; La Montañita in New Mexico; Fair Food Philadelphia; Metro Washington Council of Governments in Washington, D.C.; Appalachian Sustainable Development in Virginia; Soul City Hospitality in Mississippi; and Communities Unlimited in Tennessee.

Philanthropic partners so far include the Kentucky Agricultural Development Board, the Agua Fund, CoBank, The Duke Endowment, the Gates Family Foundation, the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, the Oak Foundation, The One Foundation, the Prince Charitable Trusts, RSF Social Finance, 11th Hour Project of the Schmidt Family Foundation, the Surdna Foundation, the Thornburg Foundation, the Town Creek Foundation, and the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation.

Additional support provided by the Surdna Foundation will also enable the Wallace Center to spread the benefits of this initiative by documenting the work in each region and sharing best practices with other organizations working to grow similar opportunities in their communities nationwide.