The Illinois Department of Agriculture in partnership with the Illinois Department of Human Services are bringing together stakeholders to create a meaningful and sustainable model to bridge locally grown and raised products of underserved farmers and ranchers to food insecure communities. This cooperative agreement is an opportunity to unite Illinoisans invested in building a resilient food system and build a collaborative network of food system support. Additionally, this program prioritizes ensuring culturally appropriate fresh foods are available to food insecure communities.
Year one of this project will focus on the development of an implementation plan. Illinois is large and diverse state, with agriculture as it’s number one industry. The Illinois Department of Agriculture notes that a network of aggregation and distribution hubs is needed to implement this program. Throughout the first year of the program, we will work to establish these networks, ensuring the participation of underserved farmers and ranchers. These networks are to be built with a goal of making certain the opportunities created by the program are sustainable and the networks created are durable.
Year two will begin with a Notice of Funding Opportunity for the issuance of subawards for management of multiple state-wide aggregate sites. These sites will serve as collection sites for products from underserved farmers and ranchers. Each awarded aggregation site will be responsible for engaging with underserved farmers, purchasing food, tracking metrics, packaging product, transporting product and ensuring equitable distribution of these products to underserved communities throughout Illinois.
The Departments are committed to purchasing 100% of products from underserved farmers and ranchers and distributing to underserved communities. Intended beneficiaries in underserved communities include, but are not limited to existing pantry networks, such as TEFAP, and using metrics to determine communities most in need.
The Illinois Department of Agriculture will enter into an intergovernmental agreement with University of Illinois Cooperative Extension to serve as neutral facilitators of the “Growing Illinois” advisory board. The advisory board will be comprised of a diverse group of stakeholders knowledgeable about current farm and food systems across the state and those committed to ensuring equitable access to culturally appropriate foods.
Invited members of the advisory board will include: University of Illinois Extension (facilitator), Feeding Illinois, Illinois Farmers’ Market Association, Illinois Farm Bureau / Illinois Specialty Crop Growers, Experimental Station (representing a GUSNIP agency), Commission to End Hunger, Illinois Public Health Institute, Chicago Food Policy Action Council, Illinois Association of Meat Processors, Illinois Environmental Council, Illinois Stewardship Alliance, student representative(s) from FFA, 4-H or MANNRS. Membership on the advisory board will disqualify the organization from any Local Food Purchase Assistance Cooperative Agreement funding.