by Ashley Colpaart RD
On Sept 15, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced a new initiative chaired by Kathleen Merrigan called Know your Farmer, Know your Food (KYF2) which aims to promote a national dialog to develop local and regional food systems and spur economic opportunity. Since the launch, KYF2 has utilized media outlets like YouTube and Facebook to engage parties from agriculture, health, planning, and policy to share their ideas for ways to support local agriculture.
On Oct 1, Kathleen held a Facebook chat in which participant entered questions answered in real time. The recorded chat can be found on the USDA’s YouTube page. Many current Friedman school students as well as alumni participated in the event. Alumi included Alicia Harvie, AFE 09 who is working for Farm Aid; Aliza Wasserman FPAN/MPH 09 who is working for Boston Public Health Commission on public health policy, and Aimme Witteman, AFE 06 Executive Director of the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition in Washington, DC.
Here are some of the exciting KYF2 developments:
- USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service and Food and Nutrition Service partnered to create “Farm to School Tactical Team,” which will assist school administrators and cafeteria workers in transitioning to purchasing more locally grown food. As the teams tour the country, they will work with local farmers, local and state authorities, school districts, and community partners to develop Farm-To-School projects and provide assistance on ways to buy more local produce for the National School Lunch Program. USDA has also made $50 million in funds available for schools and is developing procurement guidelines and policies that aim to provide more flexibility to allow food service to purchase local food.
- USDA’s Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service (CSREES) through the Community Food Projects Competitive Grant Program (CFP) will provide $4.8 million to local organizations in 14 states to build community food systems and fight hunger and food insecurity. The money will fund food policy council training, urban agriculture, new farmers on preservation farmland, promotion of native food sovereignty, youth, urban and rural food production projects, and community food assessments. The goals of the CFP are to meet the needs of low income populations, improve food security, and help build infrastructure that leads to economic development of communities.
- USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced $230,000 in funding for studies to assess the capacity of the northeastern United States to produce enough food locally to meet market demands of the burgeoning East Coast population. The Agriculture Research Service is also providing $30,000 to the Friedman School for a new cooperative agreement to conduct an assessment of marketing and processing options for local food production, and also to determine how land-use policies could further encourage such production. If you are interested in participating in this cutting edge research please contact AFE Department Chair, Tim Griffin.
As professionals in food, nutrition, and policy, you are encouraged to communicate your ideas and stories. The website admits, “Government doesn’t have all the answers,” so call, email, write, videotape, or photograph and be part of the People’s Department. For more information visit- www.usda.gov/knowyourfarmer. There, you can access the other USDA social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter, blog, and YouTube page.