April 13, 2011
Earlier this year, USDA’s National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) posted the Fiscal Year 2010 awards for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). Five of the six AFRI award categories focus on integrated solutions to five “societal challenge areas”: Childhood Obesity Prevention, Climate Change, Food Safety, Global Food Security, and Sustainable Bioenergy.
The Global Food Security challenge area includes programs to address the availability and accessibility of food both globally and in the US. Within this challenge area, one of the subprograms is “Improved Sustainable Food Systems to Reduce Hunger and Food Insecurity Domestically and Globally.” This subprogram seeks to improve food security in vulnerable US communities and create viable local economies by developing research, education, and extension programs on local and regional food systems. It is broadly speaking part of the USDA Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative.
Several of the FY 2010 AFRI award recipients will delve into this food systems integrated work.
The Northeast Center for Rural Development, house at Pennsylvania State University, received nearly $1 million to evaluate the northeast’s current food system, from production to consumption, and to study the feasibility of creating a more regionally-based approach whereby northeastern farmers and ranchers produce for their regional communities. The project will explore a variety of food system options including direct marketing and farm to school programs.
Another food system project funded at almost $1 million and based at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, will analyze the key ingredients in community and regional food systems, the challenges and possibilities in such food systems, and the role local organizations play in these food systems. The project will be an extensive partnership between numerous institutions and organizations, including Michigan State University, Growing Power, Inc., Michael Fields Agricultural Institute, and ten other community based organizations.
A third example of the food system funding is a project out of Fayetteville State University in North Carolina that was awarded $366,519. The project acknowledges the assumption that “once markets are established, farmers will choose to take advantage of the new opportunities.” However, the researchers note that “limited resource rural households” do not necessarily engage in these regional food ventures and therefore will study the “entrepreneurial capacity” of these producers. It will highlight success stories and work to improve local and regional food system capacity through entrepreneurial network development.
For a complete list of all AFRI projects awarded for FY 2010, including those on food systems and the array of others, visit this link and view the 2011 column. (Note, this column is for the awards made in 2011 as a result of the 2010 Request for Applications process).