USDA Awards Grants to Improve Sustainable Food Systems and Reduce Hunger
Release No.
Jennifer Martin (202) 720-8188

WASHINGTON, May 5, 2011 — As part of an effort to reduce hunger and food insecurity, Deputy Agriculture Secretary Kathleen Merrigan today announced U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) grants to improve sustainable regional and local food systems.

"More than 17 million American households lacked the resources to access sufficient food in 2009, and the people living in one-third of these households went hungry at least once during the year," Merrigan said. "The grants we are announcing today will help us win the future by understanding the needs of low-income communities in order to better meet their food and nutrition needs."

The grants were awarded by USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). Many regional and local sustainable food system programs across the country address food insecurity by developing small food economies in diverse ways. Projects funded through this program explore ways to improve food systems on a local level, by helping disadvantaged communities in urban and rural areas establish sustainable food systems (food sheds).

Fiscal year 2010 awards include:

  • University of Alaska, Fairbanks, Alaska, $1,124,664: To increase food security and improve diet quality in Alaskan communities and to strengthen local and regional markets for sustainably harvested fish.
  • University of Alaska, Fairbanks, Alaska, $48,845: To organize a conference to explore the constraints and opportunities for developing a sustainable red meat industry in Alaska.
  • Michigan State University, Lansing, Mich., $50,000: To organize a national conference: Making Good Food Work: A Conference on Local and Regional Food Distribution.
  • North Dakota State University, Fargo, N.D., $4,892,158: To establish a program to increase food security for Native people on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation.
  • Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pa., $4,999,829: To evaluate regional food systems in the Northeast and enhance food security of underserved populations in the region.
  • Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Va., $2,041,100: To strengthen, sustain and expand the South-Atlantic Appalachian region foodshed of Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina with the dual aim of improving food security and local-regional food economies.
  • University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wis., $4,944,748: To examine existing food systems and identify barriers to increasing local access to nutritious food, making recommendations that are responsive to local needs.
  • University of Wyoming, Laramie, Wyo., $4,983,481: To identify, develop and evaluate community organizing strategies for sustainable food systems for food security.

These grants come on the heels of numerous efforts over the years by USDA and partners across America to end hunger. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act President Obama signed into law on December 13, 2010, is a significant investment in our children and efforts to end childhood hunger. The Act expanded the at-risk meals program (CACFP) which provides supper and after-school snacks to low-income children to all states. The Act also makes it easier for children to receive free meals in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs through more expansive direct certification and community eligibility using existing data sources. USDA also recently announced a series of grants to help state agencies and their partners focus on improving program access for individuals, children and families in need. Those include $5 million in participation grants for SNAP and $5 million to 14 Hunger-Free Communities grantees in multiple states across the nation.

USDA's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) oversees the administration of 15 nutrition assistance programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and the child nutrition programs that touch the lives of one in four Americans over the course of a year. These programs work in concert to form a national safety net against hunger. 

AFRI is NIFA's flagship competitive grant program and was established under the 2008 Farm Bill. AFRI supports work in six priority areas: plant health and production and plant products; animal health and production and animal products; food safety, nutrition and health; renewable energy, natural resources and environment; agriculture systems and technology; and agriculture economics and rural communities.

Through federal funding and leadership for research, education and extension programs, USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture focuses on investing in science and solving critical issues impacting people's daily lives and the nation's future.