U.S. Department of Agriculture deputy undersecretary for rural development Lillian Salerno announced three new public/private partnerships that will create economic opportunities in Elgin, Texas; Fresno, Cal., and Chicago, Ill. The Food LINC (Leveraging Investment for Network Coordination) partnerships will help community leaders and private philanthropic partners develop regional food supply chains that drive job growth and increase farm income while helping to meet consumer demand for regionally produced food.
"USDA investments in regional food have the biggest impact when coordination between producers, processors, distributors and buyers is strong and locally led," Salerno said. "We are excited to add three new locations to the nationwide network of cities that are already leveraging government and private resources to build robust regional food systems, for the benefit of consumers, producers and the economy."
USDA Food LINC partnerships are already working in ten communities to better connect the urban demand for local food and agricultural products with the supply from regional farmers, ranchers and entrepreneurs. USDA's initial investment of $1 million provided the seed capital to attract an additional $2.5 million from 18 philanthropic organizations, plus more than $1.5 million from the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Delta Regional Authority. This expansion establishes partnerships in three new regions:
- The Texas Center for Local Food will help farmers in the Elgin region receive more for their products, support good jobs in rural communities and improve access to locally produced food. A town of 8,000 people, Elgin is centrally located within a 200-mile radius of nearly 18 million Texas residents, making it an ideal production and transportation hub for the region.
- Food Commons Fresno will incubate a community food hub and grocery store in South Fresno, a community education space and a processing and distribution facility to develop markets for agricultural producers in California's San Joaquin Valley.
- FamilyFarmed will help producers from the Midwest take advantage of Chicago's growing demand for regionally sourced, sustainably grown specialty grains.
USDA has partnered with The Wallace Center to document work in each of the 13 Food LINC regions and share best practices with other organizations that are working to grow similar opportunities in their communities. Other Food LINC partnerships include the Louisville Farm to Table Program in Kentucky; the Conservation Fund in North Carolina; Common Market in Georgia; Rocky Mountain Farmers Union in Colorado; La Montañita in New Mexico; Fair Food Philadelphia; Metro Washington Council of Governments in Washington, D.C.; Appalachian Sustainable Development in Virginia; Soul City Hospitality in Mississippi, and Communities Unlimited in Tennessee.