By: Brenda Neugent
The local food movement was given a big boost earlier this month with the announcement that the USDA has plans to invest $78 million into local and regional food enterprises.
Food hubs, farmers markers, aggregation and processing facilities, distribution services could all benefit from the funding, part of the 2014 Farm Bill and a significant increase over previous years.
It is not only expected to provide more choices for consumers – great news for those of us looking for some new varieties of fruits and vegetables to jazz up our meals – it is also anticipated to create jobs in both rural and urban communities, according to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
The funding includes $48 million in loan guarantees for local food projects through USDA’s Rural Development Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan Program as well as $30 million in competitive grants through Agricultural Marketing Service’s Farmers Market and Local Foods Promotion Program.
The grant funding is triple that of previous years as a way to inject more money into local and regional businesses geared toward fresh food, making a wider variety of fruits and vegetables available to a wider market.
“Consumer demand for locally-produced food is strong and growing, and farmers and ranchers are positioning their businesses to meet that demand,” Vilsack said.
“These historic USDA investments in support of local food give farmers and ranchers more market opportunities, provide consumers with more choices, and create jobs in both rural and urban communities,” Vilsack said.
Experts say eating more fruits and vegetables can reduce the risk of developing diabetes because those who follow a healthy diet are less likely to be overweight or obese, less likely to have high blood pressure, high cholesterol and have lower levels of inflammation.