Eight ‘Communities of Opportunity’ Will Strengthen Links Between Farmers and Consumers: Growing Food Connections Announces Communities from New Mexico to Maine

Washington, D.C., March 2, 2015 – Eight communities across the country will receive training and assistance to link family farmers and local residents who lack access to healthy food. Growing Food Connections (GFC) will help local governments, planners, family farmers, and consumers work together to strengthen their food systems.

“Growing Food Connections is a landmark, collaborative effort bringing national expertise in food policy and planning to assist citizens and their communities. American Farmland Trust (AFT) and our partners will help create and strengthen local policies to better serve residents,” said AFT President Andrew McElwaine. “We are proud to lead outreach, technical assistance and education in our eight Communities of Opportunity.”

The eight Communities of Opportunity (COOs) are:

Chautauqua County, New York (Jamestown)

Cumberland County, Maine (Portland)

Dougherty County, Georgia (Albany)

Doña Ana County, New Mexico (Las Cruces)

Douglas County, Nebraska (Omaha)

Luna County, New Mexico (Deming)

Polk County, North Carolina (Columbus)

Wyandotte County, Kansas (Kansas City)

“We have found that local leaders want tools and resources, not handouts,” said AFT Assistant Vice President for Programs, Julia Freedgood. “And, that’s what GFC will do – help local governments develop a vision and a game plan to benefit farmers and ranchers and community residents who are underserved by our current food system.”

Over a three-year period, GFC will help local governments create their own plans, policies, partnerships, and make public investment to support family farmers and enhance food security. The COOs will also serve as models for other communities nationwide that face similar challenges.

Samina Raja, PhD, GFC Principal Investigator and Associate Professor at the University at Buffalo, notes that “these COOs were selected from a competitive nationwide search and application process. The selected local governments will blaze a path for more than 30,000 local governments in the United States that have traditionally overlooked the problems and opportunities in their communities’ food systems.”

AFT will lead outreach efforts in partnership with the Food Systems Planning and Healthy Communities Lab at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York (GFC project lead), Ohio State University, and Cultivating Healthy Places. The American Planning Association and the Growing Food Connections National Advisory Committee also advise the project.

Learn more about GFC at growingfoodconnections.org.

GFC is a five-year, $3.96 million research initiative funded by award #2012-68004-19894, Agriculture and Food Research Initiative of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.