USDA Announces Maine Signs Local Food Purchase Assistance Cooperative Agreement and Receives Grant to Improve Reach and Resiliency of Emergency Food System

Monday, June 6, 2022 - 3:00pm
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WASHINGTON, June 6, 2022 — The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) today announced it has signed a cooperative agreement with Maine under the Local Food Purchase Assistance Cooperative Agreement Program (LFPA).

The funding awarded to the state will help establish “Maine Food for Maine People,” a project that will expand marketing opportunities for underserved producers and aggregators.

“USDA is excited to partner with Maine 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 pandemic, extreme weather, and ongoing supply chain strains have revealed the fragility of our food system and made clear how vital local farms are in feeding our communities. As a longtime organic farmer and member of the House Appropriations Committee, I’ve spent years advocating for increased funding to bolster both our food system’s overall resilience and to expand access to local food. That’s why I am overjoyed that Maine has been granted the resources to launch “Maine Food for Maine People” which will elevate the work of underrepresented producers and aggregators and ensure locally sourced food reaches more Maine People,” said U.S. Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (ME-01).

Maine will partner with the Good Shepherd Food Bank, Cultivating Community, and Mi’kmaq Farms to purchase over $600,000 worth of agricultural products from no fewer than seven underserved producers. These partners will target farms that are black-owned, women-owned, or Native-owned. It is estimated these beneficiaries will represent upwards of 100 food and farm businesses.

Through the “Maine Food for Maine People” project, food will be distributed through established and emerging pathways to feed underserved Maine communities. These pathways include existing Eligible Recipient Agencies of The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP ERA) and tribal pantry networks, as well as innovative, culturally responsive distribution models rooted in community demand. The project will provide nutritional benefits to thousands of Maine pantry and meals clients and other low-income consumers receiving the food.

“The USDA Local Food Purchase Assistance program agreement allows our state to address hunger while providing economic benefit to farmers by investing in Maine-grown food for the emergency and charitable food system," said Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Commissioner Amanda Beal. "We are grateful for this funding and applaud USDA's effort to deliver a program designed to grow food for our neighbors in need and help smaller producers develop new markets while supporting underserved producers and underserved communities.”

AMS looks forward to continuing to sign agreements under this innovative program that allows state and tribal governments to procure and distribute local and regional foods and beverages that are healthy, nutritious, and unique to their geographic area.

The LFPA announcement is happening concurrently with an initiative by USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, which is announcing Reach and Resiliency Grant awards for The Emergency Food Assistance Program today. TEFAP Reach and Resiliency Grants, which also support the nation’s emergency food system, are part of the “Build Back Better” initiative, authorized by the American Rescue Plan.

The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (DACF) will work with the Good Shepherd Food Bank (GSFB) and Wabanaki Public Health and Wellness (WPHW) on two distinct TEFAP Reach and Resiliency projects. The first project, administered in collaboration with GSFB, will focus on increasing the capacity of two food pantries in eastern Maine that serve multiple remote, rural, and low-income communities. Grant funds will be applied to supplies and equipment upgrades that will improve storage capacity and public access at the pantries. The second project, administered in collaboration with WPHW, will focus on convening a Tribal Food Sovereignty Planning Committee. The committee will focus on food security in the Wabanaki communities and is intended to foster improved collaboration between the DACF TEFAP program and the five Tribal food pantries in Maine. DACF hopes to use the opportunity to learn more about the needs of the Tribal communities in order to better serve them through TEFAP.

Both the TEFAP Reach and Resiliency Grants and the LFPA efforts are part of a larger strategy to support the emergency food system. In total, USDA expects to invest approximately $2 billion in the nation’s emergency food system in fiscal year 2022 with a goal of maintaining similar levels of support as in fiscal year 2021. This is in addition to resources from other federal agencies, such as the Department of the Treasury’s Coronavirus Relief Fund, which some states are using to help procure a continuous food supply for food banks and other emergency food providers.

For information about the LFPA, visit: Local Food Purchase Assistance Cooperative Agreement Program webpage.

For more information about TEFAP, visit: The Emergency Food Assistance Program.


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