Last week as I walked around the Iowa State Fair, I was reminded about the power of philanthropy. The Iowa State Fair’s Blue Ribbon Foundation has raised more than $80 million since its inception in 1993 and helped make numerous facilities improvements all around the fairgrounds including: a new exhibition center, a remodeled food center and an animal-learning center.
How appropriate, then, that during the White House Rural Forum at the Iowa State Fair, I was able to announce a Memorandum of Understanding between Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Council on Foundations. The MOU outlines ways to provide new of capital, new job opportunities, workforce investment strategies, and identification of additional resources that can be used to spur economic growth in rural America.
Joining me as I made this announcement were representatives from the Iowa Council of Foundations, including Executive Director Angie Dehtlefs-Trettin.
Ms. Dehtlefs-Trettin told me that even in these trying economic times, the foundation has seen a 20 percent increase in assets during the last 12 months. She described to me one of her favorite examples of how community foundations can play an essential role in rural America. Through the efforts of many organizations, including community foundations, The Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative was established to implement a strategic plan and develop the educational programs, events, and other efforts that provide farmers with an opportunity to diversify and explore food production.
The initiative quickly expanded to six counties with nearly 50 active members and more than 100 producer members. Organizers are now working with 18 different schools in northeast Iowa to encourage local food consumption as part of student meal programs and regular exercise for children.
I look forward to working with community foundations all across the country to effectively leverage funds to improve the quality of life and create jobs in rural America.
Working together, the government and its partners will boost the effectiveness of efforts to create economic opportunity in communities and regions of our nation that need support.