Nelsonville, OH, Mar 20, 2014 -- Agriculture Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Doug O’Brien visited Athens County, Ohio, today to announce a grant award of more than $198,000 to help Rural Action and the Southeast Ohio Food Hub Network expand the distribution of locally grown foods. The grant will provide business support, technical assistance and shared infrastructure support for the region’s local agriculture economy.
“This project is a ‘win-win’ for all involved because it will not only increase the availability of nutritious, locally-produced foods for consumers, but it will also create additional jobs in the food sector for area businesses,” O’Brien said. “USDA is proud to partner with groups in the Appalachian region to help support food hub development and the overall food economy in Ohio and beyond.”
The Southeast Ohio Food Hub Network is comprised of the Chesterhill Produce Auction (Morgan County), the ACEnet Nelsonville Business Incubator (Athens County) and the Village of Somerset Farmers’ Market (Perry County). Rural Action estimates the USDA grant investment will help retain more than 275 food sector jobs and could create as many as 65 new jobs and associated businesses. The food hub network also will allow for easier distribution of fresh, local produce to the Southeast Ohio Food bank, enabling area residents at every economic level to have access to local foods.
O’Brien, who made the announcement on behalf of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, noted that the grant also will help facilitate the creation of a centralized cooling space at the Nelsonville Food Hub, allowing it to act as an aggregation point for local food shipments to Columbus and other urban Ohio markets.
Today’s award is made through USDA Rural Development’s Rural Business Enterprise Grant (RBEG) program, which finances and facilitates development of small and emerging businesses in rural areas, including local food enterprises. Secretary Vilsack has deemed that local and regional food development is one of the four pillars of USDA’s work to support rural economic development in the second term of the Obama Administration. USDA coordinates its work on local and regional food development through the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative. A map of additional Rural Development investments in local and regional food is available on the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Compass.
Rural Action is a membership-based nonprofit with nearly two decades of work in the local food systems arena. Its leaders say its mission is to “promote social, economic and environmental justice through infrastructure, organizing and education.”
President Obama’s plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities. Under the President's leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way – strengthening America's economy, small towns and rural communities. USDA's investments in rural communities support the rural way of life that stands as the backbone of our American values.