The USDA awarded a $25,000 grant to the Metropolitan Planning Commission to study ways to increase the availability of locally grown food.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced Monday more than $52 million in grants nationwide to support local and regional food systems. As part of the announcement, the Knoxville-Knox County Metropolitan Planning Commission (MPC) was awarded $25,000 to study the feasibility of a food hub for the Knoxville region.
USDA’s Local Foods Promotion Program (LFPP) invests millions of dollars annually in marketing and promotion activities for local food enterprises including food hubs, aggregation businesses, food processors, farm to institution activities, and other efforts. MPC's study will assess our region's readiness for a centrally located facility for collection, distribution, and marketing of locally produced food.
"Program grants provide farmers and ranchers around the country with tools to reach consumers, strengthen ties between urban and rural communities, and help meet the growing demand for locally and regionally produced food," said USDA Agricultural Marketing Services (AMS) Administrator, Anne Alonzo. More than $27 million of the grants awarded on Monday were through the AMS.
MPC will partner with economists from the University of Tennessee’s Institute for Agriculture as well as local farmers, distributors, aggregators, processors, and consumers to assess the status of supply and demand for local and regional food.
Growing the local food economy ranked among the top priorities voiced by residents during the Plan East Tennessee process. The food hub feasibility study will be the opening step in answering the public’s call for access to local foods. In addition to evaluating supply and demand, this grant will be used to assess the support system needed to make better connections between small-to-medium-sized farms and large-scale consumers, such as schools, hospitals, and grocery stores.
“This is great news, and it ties in well with our ongoing efforts to encourage urban agriculture and address issues of food access across our City and region,” said Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero. “You only have to look at the crowds at area farmers’ markets to know that there is real demand here for healthy, locally produced food.”
Plan East Tennessee was a three-year regional planning effort for Anderson, Blount, Knox, Loudon, and Union counties. Since its completion in March of this year, MPC has sought funding through various grants to begin implementing the strategies identified by the public during the process.