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Posts tagged: food access

Expanding SNAP Farmers Market Access through Innovative Partnerships

Customers scoop up a handful of the healthy, fresh produce available at one of the many farmers’ markets found in communities across America.

Customers scoop up a handful of the healthy, fresh produce available at one of the many farmers’ markets found in communities across America.

America’s farmers’ markets are a great source of fresh fruits and vegetables and other healthy foods, and at USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), we’ve made it a priority to expand healthy food access through farmers’ markets to those participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). It’s a win-win situation because, for farmers markets, the ability to accept SNAP benefits is a great way to build their customer base, which helps generate more sales and nourish the economy in our rural communities.

As Administrator of USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, I place a high value on partnerships because, working together, we can achieve more toward shared goals than by working alone. The USDA recently contracted with the National Association of Farmers Market Nutrition Programs (NAFMNP), in an effort to enhance the participation of farmers and farmers markets in SNAP.  And out of that innovative partnership, I am excited to announce MarketLink, a new way for farmers’ markets and direct-marketing farmers to get authorized as SNAP vendors and get the equipment they need to accept SNAP benefits. Read more »

Dive Deeper Into USDA Data with New APIs

Data consumers can now more easily leverage several of the most popular offerings from USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS)!

To meet the needs of a growing community of data users, including application developers and researchers, ERS has just released seven new APIs (Application Programming Interface), enriched with shared services provided by other Federal agencies.  The APIs offer dynamic access to ERS’s atlases, traditional data sets, and indicators in machine-readable formats.  ERS has developed rigorous standards for data products; users will note the extensive metadata and full documentation and transparency provided for each of the data sets via APIs.

Experienced users may want to dive into the thorough documentation available on ERS’s Developer page; while those seeking a simpler path can leverage pre-built widgets and starter-code snippets available in jQuery, Python, and Ruby.  The geospatial APIs provide access to map layers via ESRI (or other mapping services, such as Mapbox and Google Maps).  The newly released APIs supplement the following data sets: Read more »

Food Hubs – Building Businesses and Sustaining Communities

An infographic looking at how food hubs are building businesses and sustaining communities. Click to view a larger version.

An infographic looking at how food hubs are building businesses and sustaining communities. Click to view a larger version.

Food is a great equalizer.  Whether sharing it with loved ones around our holiday table or worrying about how we’re going to fit lunch in to our busy work days–food is something we all have in common.  But we don’t always think about the path it takes to get to our plates or even the store shelves.  And while there are many different ways it gets to us, we’re seeing food hubs play an increasingly important role for everyone along the way–farmer to corner store, chef to school lunch.

Food hubs are innovative business models emerging more and more across the country. They bring farmers and suppliers together, with 81 percent of food hubs focusing on increasing opportunities for local farms and allowing smaller producers to pool their products and fulfill larger contracts. Ninety-one percent of food hubs are near cities, connecting rural farmers to larger suburban and urban communities.  Oftentimes, farmers who work with food hubs offer a wider variety of products and are able to continue selling their goods later into the growing season.  That translated into an average of over $3.7 million in sales in the last year.  And USDA’s efforts have helped expand the number of regional food hubs operating around the country.  There are over 230, a 65 percent increase since 2009. Read more »

Hunger Knows No Season

There is no “off-season” for the nearly 15% of people in this country facing hunger. Although demand remains high all year round, many of the nation’s food banks experience a major decline in donations during the summer months. USDA programs, however, work year-round to help those affected by hunger.

Through The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), USDA helps those in need by purchasing items for food banks and community service organizations. The Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) Commodity Procurement staff coordinates with the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) to send quality, wholesome foods to these establishments. In FY 2013, AMS purchased more than 212 million pounds of food for TEFAP. Read more »

Updated Web Tool Maps U.S. Food Access in Greater Detail

Users of ERS’s Food Access Research Atlas can opt to view low-income census tracts (shaded in gold and in light blue) in a selected area of the country. The gold-shading indicates low-income tracts where a substantial number or portion of residents live at least 0.5 mile from a supermarket in urban areas or at least 10 miles in rural areas. (Central Connecticut)

Users of ERS’s Food Access Research Atlas can opt to view low-income census tracts (shaded in gold and in light blue) in a selected area of the country. The gold-shading indicates low-income tracts where a substantial number or portion of residents live at least 0.5 mile from a supermarket in urban areas or at least 10 miles in rural areas. (Central Connecticut)

Access to stores that carry healthy, affordable food can play an important role in people’s nutrition and overall health. Ensuring access to healthy food is a priority for USDA and a key component of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative. Read more »

Apply to Make a Difference: Farmers Market Promotion Program Grants Available

The Greensgrow Farms mobile food delivery system.  With the help of an FMPP grant, Greensgrow Farms has used this truck to supply residents of the Camden/Philadelphia area with fresh, healthy, affordable foods. (Photo courtesy of Greensgrow Farms)

The Greensgrow Farms mobile food delivery system. With the help of an FMPP grant, Greensgrow Farms has used this truck to supply residents of the Camden/Philadelphia area with fresh, healthy, affordable foods. (Photo courtesy of Greensgrow Farms)

Every day, thousands of local farmers and ranchers work hard to ensure that their communities have access to a diverse range of fresh, healthy affordable foods.  While nutritious food is a cornerstone of society’s physical health, a vibrant community also includes sustainable economic opportunities.  By funding projects that support these goals, USDA’s Farmers Market Promotion Program continues to make a difference for farmers at the local level. Read more »