Delaware will spend $2 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds to establish a seed fund aimed at stabilizing and strengthening small and mid-sized farmers and local food supply chain operations.
The First State Integrated Food System Program, announced Thursday by Gov. John Carney, will be paid for using funds the state received from the American Rescue Plan Act.
Delaware received $925 million from the federal stimulus bill, which is designed to hasten the economic recovery from the pandemic.
In a press release announcing the investment, Gov. John Carney said the seed fund will provide a “coordinated approach” to improving local access to affordable and nutritious Delaware-produced foods while supporting Delaware farmers.
“We know the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted small-scale food businesses and Delaware families’ access to food,” Carney said. “That’s why the Council on Farm and Food Policy will work with partners to develop and administer a diverse portfolio of grants and loans to improve the availability and accessibility of local produce, animal protein, value-added products, and other foods, promoting overall economic growth here in Delaware.”
The First State Integrated Food System Program focuses on three main channels in the food supply chain, including:
- Production: small and mid-size farmers.
- Processing and distribution: commercial kitchens, processing facilities, storage/hub facilities, incubators.
- Retail/consumer outlets: convenience stores, groceries/markets, restaurants, farmers’ markets, food trucks, food kiosks, and mobile markets.
Michael Scuse, Delaware’s agriculture secretary, said the seed fund will allow the state to make a “strategic investment” in how families access food in their communities, all while bolstering the local food supply chain.
“Neighboring states, like Maryland and New Jersey, have reaped the benefits of food financing programs,” Scuse said. “The First State Integrated Food System Program will make similar opportunities available to bolster Delaware’s capacity. These efforts will go a long way in improving local access to local food.”
Through this program and others, the Delaware Council on Farm and Food Policy hopes to facilitate and support a food system where:
- Local farmers can access viable markets.
- All Delawareans can access resources needed to circumvent challenges associated with securing nutritious and local food options.
- Vulnerabilities within Delaware communities can be diminished.
The statement announcing the fund indicated that it is still in the development stage, noting that all American Rescue Plan Act funds related to the program will be dispersed by Dec. 2024.
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