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Delaware Department of Agriculture Working to Strengthen the Local Food System

The Delaware Department of Agriculture is funding 12 projects to help strengthen the local food system.

It’s part of the First State Food System Program, a grant program that seeks to support food supply chain operators in production, processing, transportation, distribution, storage, and community access.

The program was awarded a lump sum from the American Rescue Plan Act, which it has split up to last 3 years. This is the second year of the program, with $665,872 being distributed statewide in this cycle.

Nikko Brady is the Director of Agriculture and Environmental Affairs with the Office of the Delaware Governor, and the Council Liaison of the Delaware Council on Farm and Food Policy.

She says spreading the funding over 3 years helped improve the program. The grant is geared towards food supply chain operators, including farmers and restaurant owners, meaning many applicants work daily and have rigorous hours.

“We learned about the actual application window itself. We heard a lot from farmers after cycle 1 that they felt like the turnaround was too quick,” said Brady. “So in cycle 2, we extended the application for a whole month. That was one big lesson learned that just helped to administratively improve cycle 2 for our applicants.”

They were also able to provide greater clarity on the types of projects they look to fund, helping to extend their application pool.

Given the nature of the grants, a lot of the requests came from traditional farming communities. But not all of them.

“We also were able to award projects that are in our urban communities, supporting community development, and supporting community access to fresh vegetables through community gardens,” said Brady.

For example, the Wilmington Alliance received funding for their 7th & West Streets Community Garden.

In this round, a total of 34% of the projects were awarded to community organizations focused on community development, nutrition education, and food access.

And many of the projects related to food processing, storage, and distribution involved the collaboration of multiple food supply chain operators.

“We were able to fund a commercial kitchen space where multiple farmers can go in, and access that equipment, and be able to process things and do things like pickling, or canning,” explained Brady. “So they’re taking their fresh products and extending that shelf by sort of transitioning it to value added products. And this sort of helps the farmer diversify and open up additional markets where now they’re able to sell pickled items, and launch into different market spaces outside of just fresh markets.”

Funding applications for the third and final cycle of projects under this program open in February 2024.

Source : DPM