Federal Funding to Aid Food Deserts

Funding from the Farmers Market Promotion Program will be used to help increase healthy food options in areas where fresh food is scarce.

by Dani Yokhna
Roadside farm stand
Courtesy Hemera/Thinkstock
The USDA’s Farmers Market Promotion Program is focusing its funding to increase the availability of farm products in food deserts.

Approximately $10 million in funding for the USDA’s Farmers Market Promotion Program will be used to help increase availability of local farm products in communities throughout the U.S.

“These grants will put resources into rural and urban economies to create and support direct-marketing opportunities for farmers,” says Deputy Agriculture Secretary Kathleen Merrigan. “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.” 

In fiscal year 2011, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service will competitively award grants to agricultural projects that develop producer-to-consumer market outlets, including but not limited to farmers’ markets, community-supported agriculture and roadside stands. Priority status will be granted to those projects that expand healthy food choices in food deserts, areas with limited access to affordable and nutritious foods in urban, rural and tribal neighborhoods. AMS will continue to target 10 percent of grant funding toward new electronic benefits-transfer projects at farmers’ markets.

The USDA, in coordination with the Departments of the Treasury and Health and Human Services, says it seeks to eliminate food deserts in the U.S. by increasing access to fresh, healthy and affordable food choices for all Americans, while expanding market opportunities for farmers and ranchers. Through a suite of funding options, the federal partners are targeting food deserts. Earlier this year, USDA’s Economic Research Service released a Food Desert Locator tool online to pinpoint the location of food deserts across the country and provide data on population characteristics of census tracts where residents have limited access to affordable and nutritious foods. 

Because of changes to the Farmers Market Promotion Program in fiscal year 2011, applicants should visit the FMPP website for full details about food deserts and assistance in applying. The “FMPP Pre-Application Guide” also helps applicants assess their readiness for implementing a federally-funded grant project, and the “How to Apply for an FMPP Grant” tutorial will guide them through completion of the application.

Authorized by the Farmer-to-Consumer Direct Marketing Act of 1976 and amended by the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (the Farm Bill), FMPP is in its sixth year of funding direct markets that benefit local and regional economies.

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Since 1994, the number of farmers’ markets listed in the USDA National Farmers Market Directory has skyrocketed from 1,755 to 6,132. The directory captures information about where and when farmers’ markets operate, if they participate in federal nutrition-benefit programs, and detailed information about their seasonality and location.

Complete FMPP applications must be received—not postmarked—by AMS no later than close of business on July 1, 2011. Applications received after the deadline and incomplete applications will not be considered.

For more information, contact in writing: Carmen Humphrey, program manager, Farmers Market Promotion Program, AMS, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Room 4509—South Building, Washington, D.C. 20250; call 202-720-8317; or fax 202-690-0031.

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