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USDA works to address 'food deserts'

June 4, 2011 at 12:24 AM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, June 4 (UPI) -- The federal government is funding $10 million to increase locally grown food availability in so-called food deserts -- areas where fresh produce is hard to buy.

Part of first lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! initiative, the Healthy Food Financing Initiative, will expand the availability of nutritious food to food deserts -- low-income communities without ready access to healthy and affordable food -- by developing and equipping grocery stores, small retailers, corner stores and farmers markets with fresh and healthy food.

"These grants will put resources into rural and urban economies to create and support direct marketing opportunities for farmers" Kathleen Merrigan, deputy agriculture secretary, says in a statement. "Consumer and farmer enthusiasm for direct marketing has never been greater. This year we will place emphasis on food deserts because America's low income and underserved communities need greater access to healthy, fresh food."

For fiscal year 2011, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Marketing Service will competitively award grants to projects that develop producer-to-consumer market outlets, including but not limited to farmers markets, community supported agriculture, and road-side stands.

The number of operational U.S. farmers markets listed in the USDA National Farmers Market Directory has risen from 1,755 to 6,132 since 1994.

Information and tools on applying for the grant are at http://www.ams.usda.gov/FMPP.

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