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USDA Resources for Local Food Systems

These resources are intended for use by Extension professionals working in collaboration with the W.K. Kellogg Food and Fitness funded communities. While not all inclusive, this list includes USDA and Land Grant Institution materials on local sustainable agriculture, food access, community food security, nutrition and health.

Land Grant Institutions



Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS)

  • The AMS Farmers Markets database is a current listing of US farmers markets. Market information is provided to AMS from various sources, including state market representatives, market managers, and consumers. 

  • The Marketing Services Branch (MSB) Program focuses on four types of markets: wholesale, collection, farmers, and direct markets. MSB plans and designs facilities, processes, and methods in cooperation with state, local, and tribal governments, universities, farmer groups, and private enterprise segments of the U.S. food industry. This assistance is available through collaboration efforts with project participants in the form of cooperative agreements. This is not a grant program. MSB also provides technical assistance, information, and data to assist in developing feasibility studies for wholesale, collection, farmers, and direct markets.


Cooperative State Research Education and Extension Service  (NIFA)

  • The Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SARE) works to increase knowledge about -- and helps farmers and ranchers adopt -- practices that are profitable, environmentally sound, and good for communities. Their Web site has tools for farmers, researchers, educators and consumers. It has three grant programs: research and education grants, professional grants and producer grants.  The SARE Web site includes a national database of about 3,000 projects funded by SARE since the program's inception in 1988. The database is searchable by keyword, title, and project number.

  • The Community Food Projects Competitive Grant Program (CFPCGP) is designed to increase food security in communities by bringing the whole food system together to assess strengths, establish linkages, and create systems that improve the self-reliance of community members over their food needs. It addresses food insecurity through developing community food projects that help promote the self-sufficiency of low-income communities. Specifically, the program is designed to: meet the needs of low-income people by increasing their access to fresher, more nutritious food supplies; increase the self-reliance of communities in providing for their own food needs; and promote comprehensive responses to local food, farm, and nutrition issues. These grants are intended to help eligible private nonprofit entities that need a one-time infusion of federal assistance to establish and carry out multipurpose community food projects. Projects are funded from $10,000-$300,000 and from 1-3 years. These are one-time grants that require a dollar for dollar match in resources.

    • The Food Security Learning Center, supported by the CFPCGP, shows how the local food system is connected with individuals and communities and its importance to food security.

    • The USDA Community Projects is a searchable database of CFPCGP grantees.

    • The Community Food Security Coalition (CFSC) Community Food Projects Planning Guide provides information about CFP program guidelines and how to develop a strong proposal. The CFSC Web site also includes examples of successful CFP grant proposals.

      The CFSC’s The Healthy Food Healthy Communities: A Decade of Community Food Projects in Action, is a 26-page document highlighting the advances in community food security made through the CFPCGP. It includes profiles of eight Community Food Projects, lists all 240 grant recipients since 1996, and contains basic information on how to apply.


Economic Research Service (ERS)

  • The Community Food Security Assessment Kit is a toolkit of standardized measurement tools for assessing various aspects of community food security. It includes a general guide to community assessment and focused materials for examining six basic assessment components related to community food security. The toolkit was developed through a collaborative process and is designed for use by community-based nonprofit organizations and business groups, local government officials, private citizens, and community planners.

  • In her article Community Food Security Program Improves Food Access, ERS economist Linda Kantor Discusses how community-based efforts such as farmers markets, food cooperatives, community-supported agriculture, farm-to-school initiatives, and community gardens, complement Federal food assistance programs by increasing the quantity, quality, and affordability of food in a community


Food and Nutrition Service

  • The National Nutrition Safety Net Tools for Community Food Security helps program providers, public officials, anti-hunger advocates, coalitions, and individual volunteers overcome barriers to making nutrition assistance programs available to all those eligible in local communities. This resource highlights the important role of faith-based and community organizations in the delivery of food and nutrition assistance programs.

  • Together We Can! is a handbook of step-by-step plans for combating hunger. It outlines ideas for volunteers, provides action plans for hunger-fighting activities, and identifies resources available to fight hunger in communities throughout America.

  • The WIC Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program is associated with the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC.) WIC provides supplemental foods, health care referrals and nutrition education at no cost to low-income pregnant, breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding post-partum women, and to infants and children up to 5 years of age, who are found to be at nutritional risk.

  • The Senior’s Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) awards grants to states, U.S. Territories, and federally-recognized Indian tribal governments to provide low-income seniors with coupons that can be exchanged for eligible foods at farmers' markets, roadside stands, and community supported agriculture programs. The majority of the grant funds must be used to support the costs of the foods that are provided under the SFMNP; state agencies may use up to 10 percent of their grants to support administrative costs for the program.

  • FNS provides limited funds to support farmers markets in low-income areas. These funds are available at the state level.  Visit the FNS Web site to locate your state contacts.  


Rural Development


Land Grant Institutions

University of Illinois Market Maker, an important link between producers and consumers. includesa map to locate businesses and markets of agricultural products in Illinois.

Cornell University’s Farm to School Toolkit for the Northeast provides a step-by-step guide to making farm –to- school connections, walking practitioners through a process from planning, to implementation and evaluation. Each chapter includes a “Toolbox” filled with a variety of resources -- assessment and evaluation forms, sample position announcements, contracts, flowcharts -- that help users stay organized, confront inevitable challenges, and celebrate successes as they work toward farm -to -school objectives. A pdf version of "Farm to School in the Northeast: Making the Connection for Healthy Kids and Healthy Farms" is available.



Interested in hosting a Farmer-Chef Connection event — or something similar — in your area? Ecotrust’s toolkit synthesizes our years of experience building and bolstering local food networks in the Pacific Northwest to support the efforts of other communities striving to do the same. In conjunction, an online, interactive learning community to foster peer-to-peer exchange of ideas, questions, and lessons learned around the topic of building local food networks. Contact: Zoë Bradbury, Ecotrust  Food & Farms Project Coordinator, 721 NW 9th Avenue, Suite 200, Portland, OR 97209-3448.


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