Access to quality food should be a given for everyone, but right now it’s an ideal. The USDA is hoping to push that ideal closer to reality with $10 million in funding toward its Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP), a program with the express goal of increasing the availability of local produce and other agricultural products to a wider range of communities across the country.
This program is part of a strategic plan by the USDA, in conjunction with the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of the Treasury, to eradicate food deserts – areas where healthy and affordable food options are hard to come by – by helping farmers and ranchers expand their opportunities to new and otherwise unreachable markets. Earlier this year the USDA released a Food Desert Locator program, and are now taking action with the data obtained.
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Throughout the 2011 fiscal year, the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) will be awarding competitive grants to projects that it feels can effectively further the development of “producer-to-consumer market outlets.” According to the USDA, this includes – but is not limited to – farmers markets, community supported agriculture (CSA) programs, and roadside produce stands. Above all, the USDA is prioritizing its FMPP funding toward projects that can bring healthier food options to identified food deserts.
"These grants will put resources into rural and urban economies to create and support direct marketing opportunities for farmers," said Deputy Agriculture Secretary Kathleen Merrigan in a related press release. "Consumer and farmer enthusiasm for direct marketing has never been greater. This year we will place emphasis on food deserts because America's low income and underserved communities need greater access to healthy, fresh food."