On September 28, 2022

Vermont awards $500,000 to increase local food access 

Program connects local farmers to underserved communities   

The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets (VAAFM) will launch a significant program to purchase local food and support the most vulnerable, according to a news release Sept. 23. Earlier this summer the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) announced it signed a cooperative agreement with Vermont under the Local Food Purchase Assistance Cooperative Agreement Program (LFPA). Through LFPA, VAAFM has connected with local partners to purchase and distribute locally grown, produced, and processed food from underserved producers.

“These important investments in our farmers and producers will help grow Vermont’s economy while protecting our most vulnerable,” said Anson Tebbetts, Vermont Secretary of Agriculture. “This innovative approach to feeding those in need will provide healthy food while supporting those who make their living off the land.”

Five projects with nonprofit partners will begin this fall:

  1. Abenaki Helping Abenaki: $50,000 to purchase culturally appropriate food for distribution via partner food pantries and distribution sites across the state. Funding will also support increased staffing at one food pantry to expand open hours
  2. Capstone Community Action: $20,000 to purchase local food for use in Community Kitchen Academy training program and associated distribution sites as well as its food shelf
  3. Center for an Agricultural Economy: $50,000 to expand Produce to Pantry offerings that supplies food pantries with fresh, local food
  4. The Intervale Center: $72,000 to expand offerings, especially of culturally appropriate produce, at pop-up farmers markets in historically underserved neighborhoods
  5. The Vermont Foodbank: $61,765 to partner with a New American chicken farmer and local slaughterhouse to offer halal chicken to be distributed to New Americans throughout the state. This project will also purchase and distribute African corn varietals.

In addition, the Vermont Land Trust and Feeding Chittenden are partnering to expand the purchase and distribution of goat meat to the refugee and New American communities.

These partner organizations will use the Local Food Purchase Assistance funds to expand procurement relationships with local and underserved farmers and producers and distribute the food purchased to underserved communities. These projects will run for 18 months and vary in size and scope but all aim to increase access to local, culturally appropriate food products and support diverse farmers and food producers.

As part of this program, VAAFM will release a request for applications (RFA) this fall to solicit other organizations and individual farms to participate in this initiative. Funds will be awarded to farms and organizations that demonstrate an ability to purchase and distribute local food from socially disadvantaged producers to underserved community members across Vermont.

“This opportunity will allow us to purchase food from local farmers and work with food access organizations to distribute healthy, nutritious foods to underserved communities. These investments will create new market opportunities for our agricultural producers and ensure underserved populations experience increased food security during this critical time” stated Abbey Willard, VAAFM director of agriculture development.

“USDA is excited to partner with Vermont to promote economic opportunities for farmers and producers and to increase access to locally sourced, fresh, healthy, and nutritious food in underserved communities,” said USDA Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Jenny Lester Moffitt. “The Local Food Purchase Cooperative Agreement Program will improve food and agricultural supply-chain resiliency and increase local food consumption around the country.”

The LFPA program is authorized by the American Rescue Plan to maintain and improve food and agricultural supply chain resiliency. Through this program, USDA will award up to $400 million through non-competitive cooperative agreements with state and tribal governments to support local, regional, and underserved producers through the purchase of food produced within the state or within 400 miles of delivery destination.

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