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Addressing Hunger Through Local and Regional Food Systems

In 2009, 14.7% of U.S. households were insecure, meaning that at some point during the year these households were uncertain of having, or unable to obtain, enough food.  In addition to tracking and reporting on hunger in the United States, USDA plays a significant role in helping families acquire food through a myriad of nutrition programs (15 in all), inluding the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and the National School Lunch Program.

An area of USDA support for finding solutions to hunger that may be overlooked is through our National Instutite for Food and Agriculture (NIFA), an agency within the Department that supports research, education and extension programs in the Land-Grant University System and other partner organizations.  Last week we annouced eight awards totaling more than $18 million, made through the Agriculture Food and Research Initiative (AFRI), that are supporting local and regional food systems while investigating sustainable solutions to food access within those regions.  Here’s a list of the projects:

  • 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.

By investing in the twin roots of hunger – poverty alleviation and food access – we’re hopeful these projects will yield long-term results while providing models for other communities across the country.

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