This week, US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced nearly $35 million dollars in funding for grant programs that will support local and regional food systems, including in Pittsburgh. The funds come from the Farm Bill, which allocates $30 million dollars a year for these initiatives.
Pennsylvania is receiving ten of these grants; one, of nearly 100,000 is coming to Pittsburgh. It will go toward Three Rivers Grown LLC, which is an aggregator. They purchase food and connect wholesale buyers and producers so suppliers are ensured a safe supply of regionally produced food.
Hunger for locally produced food is growing. According to Vilsack, in 2009 there were 5,274 farmers markets in the U.S. – now there are 8,500.
$8.1 million is going to assist the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). That will allow more people who receive the benefits to shop at Farmer’s Markets. Vilsack says it’s a priority to get SNAP families nutritious and safe foods.
“That encourages them to think about the possibilities of fruits and vegetables in more wholesome and more nutritious choices which may help reduce healthcare expenses and so forth and may make it easier for them to deal with the food insecurity they experience from time to time,” said Vilsack.
Money is also going to help farmers markets market themselves so more customers are aware and can go to them. Money is also going toward matching-grant funds and research projects.