SEPTEMBER 26, 2012
The U.S. government keeps spending huge sums of taxpayer dollars to bring farmers markets into low-income minority communities the Obama Administration claims would otherwise not have access to healthy foods, including the president’s hometown of Chicago.
It’s all part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s costly effort to revolutionize the inner city diet by providing affordable healthy fare such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat milk in neighborhoods determined to be “food deserts” or poor census tracts with “low access” to a large grocery store. The feds even launched an internet mapping tool (Food Desert Locator) that identifies areas with “limited access to affordable and nutritious foods.”
To tackle the problem, Uncle Sam dedicates millions annually to a special Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP) that also funds initiatives that create “new opportunities for Latino, refugee and immigrant farmers,” according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the agency that disperses the cash. This month the USDA announced more than $9 million in grants to organizations in dozens of states that will help improve access to healthy food. More money is available and will be doled out before the end of the year, according to the agency.
Of interesting note is that more than a quarter of a million dollars from this latest allocation will go to Chicago groups that will set up and increase awareness of farmers’ markets for low-income consumers. It’s a worthy investment because the money will “create new economic opportunities and encourage consumers to eat healthier,” says USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan. The millions will be divided between more than 100 projects that “connect farmers and ranchers to new customers” as well as to support new opportunities for Latino, refugee and immigrant farmers.
In 2011 the USDA poured $10 million into FMPP, double the amount from the previous year. The funds went to agricultural cooperatives, local governments, nonprofit corporations, tribal governments and public benefit corporations. Additionally, the Obama Administration dedicated millions more to eliminating food deserts last year via a $100 million healthcare grant to “reduce health disparities” between minorities and whites.
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