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USDA Awards the University of Wisconsin a Grant to Study Community and Regional Food Systems

Media Contact: Jennifer Martin, (202) 720-8188

WASHINGTON, April 11, 2011 –The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has awarded a research grant to the University of Wisconsin to lead a study on how changes to community and regional foods systems can promote healthy eating in urban communities.

“More than 17 million American households lacked the resources to access sufficient food in 2009, and the people living in one-third of these households went hungry at least once during the year,” said Roger Beachy, NIFA director. “The grants we are announcing today will help us better understand the needs of low-income communities.  We are committed to helping Americans stay healthy to win the future by supporting the local development of the tools and resources necessary to meet their food needs.”

NIFA made the $4.9 million award to the University of Wisconsin to support the work of Dr. Stephen Ventura. Ventura will partner with Growing Power, Inc., Michigan State University, Iowa State University, Michael Fields Agricultural Institute and 10 community-based organizations involved with local and regional food systems. They will work together to examine existing food systems and identify barriers to increasing local access to food. The team will then recommend sustainable food production, processing and distribution solutions that are responsive to local needs and conditions and help open access to nutritious food to those who need it most.

The team will specifically focus on getting more healthy food into urban areas of Milwaukee, Chicago and Detroit, where food insecurity is extensive. For the partnering universities, the project will create research opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students and will develop curriculum for a pre-college enrichment program targeted at inner city high school students.

The grant was awarded through NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). AFRI’s global food security challenge area focuses on two intertwined issues: food availability and food accessibility. The long-term goal of this program is to increase global food availability through increased and sustainable food production.

AFRI is NIFA’s flagship competitive grant program and was established under the 2008 Farm Bill. AFRI supports work in six priority areas: plant health and production and plant products; animal health and production and animal products; food safety, nutrition and health; renewable energy, natural resources and environment; agriculture systems and technology; and agriculture economics and rural communities.

Through federal funding and leadership for research, education and extension programs, USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture focuses on investing in science and solving critical issues impacting people's daily lives and the nation's future.  More information is available at: www.nifa.usda.gov.

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