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This page has been updated with questions and answers about the MN Local Food Purchase Assistance Program Grant. Questions were required to be submitted by 9:00 a.m. Central Time on May 13, 2024.

Applicant Eligibility 

Yes, food shelves are eligible to apply. (The list of grantees from Round 1 includes some food shelves.)

Yes, though new applicants will be prioritized, as indicated in the Application Evaluation Profile on page 18 of the Request for Proposals (RFP).

Yes, farmers are eligible. Among current projects, we are usually seeing a financial transaction take place between a farmer and another entity that is buying that food. In the case of a farmer applicant supplying food, there would still be the calculation of value for the food involved. There would be paperwork needed, such as an invoice, that shows the value of the food as it is normally sold. Food prices have to be the same as they would be in any other setting the farmer uses outside of LFPA.

Yes. Note that projects must supplement, meaning increase or expand, on current food procurement or distribution activities. They can’t replicate work already happening. Proposals also shouldn’t be a mirror of each other. In other words, two applications can’t propose the same thing, with the only difference being swapped roles.  

An applicant’s legal business entity must be located in MN. A farm/organization located in WI would not be eligible to be a lead applicant. An entity that is located in MN could apply and source from a farm in WI, however, as long as the WI purchases are not more than 30% of the project’s total food purchases. At least 70% of a project’s food purchases (by monetary value) must be sourced from within the geographic boundaries of MN.

Definitions and requirements – including eligible food products

No. Applicants are asked to provide their own definition of community and decide accordingly how many farmers it makes sense to work with. It’s not something that there are set requirements around. Areas where there are requirements set in the application related to sourcing minimums, are regarding sourcing the majority of food products from within MN (minimum 70% by monetary value) and from socially disadvantaged farmers (minimum 70% by monetary value).

You do not need to have 100% of the details finalized on who you're going to be working with. Some of that can be determined after the application is submitted based on project needs. However, you must have enough of the plan in place that reviewers can have a general sense of what the actual plan is and how food will be procured and distributed.

It’s up to the applicant, as part of the application, to describe their own definition of community and the relationships between the people growing/producing food and the people receiving food. This can be geographic or cultural, etc.; there are many potential factors that could be a part.

The definition provided in the RFP (page 10, also below) is the best available from USDA. Cheese is an example of an eligible minimally processed food, as long as that cheese doesn’t have added flavor. It couldn’t be a jalapeño cheddar, for example. Another example of an eligible minimally processed food is breakfast sausage. But not Italian sausage. Italian sausage is considered fully processed.

There isn’t a comprehensive list of items that are either considered fully processed or minimally processed. There is a list in the RFP, however, of some specific items that have previously been asked about and confirmed to be ineligible because they are considered fully processed. That includes kimchi, ham hocks, bacon (see page 9 for the list). It’s really case by case though so if you have specific questions let us know.

“Unprocessed or minimally processed: Examples of allowable food products include fruits and vegetables (including 100% juices); grain products such as pastas and rice; meats (whole, pieces, or food items such as ground meats); meat alternates such as beans or legumes; and, fluid milk and other dairy foods such as cheese and yogurt. Foods in a wide variety of minimal processing states (e.g., whole, cut, pureed, etc.) and/or forms (e.g., fresh, frozen, canned, dried, etc.) are also allowable.”

No, the 70% requirement creates leeway for food to be sourced from outside MN. All food needs to meet the USDA definition of local and regional food (see page 10 of the RFP), so the maximum distance it can travel between where it’s produced and where it’s distributed is 400 miles. Prior to Round 1 of funding we heard through public feedback that it was important to prioritize Minnesota farmers but to also have a broad range of sourcing options, especially for border communities. That’s where the requirement for minimum of 70% of food to be sourced from within the geographic boundaries of Minnesota comes from.

There are specific exceptions in this space for tribal communities, as confirmed with USDA. Tribal communities can offer food specifically for tribal members. In general though, for the majority of projects there can’t be conditions involved. For example, you can’t make someone attend a class in order to receive food or require a specific medical diagnosis in order to get food.

Food has to be available to people who need food. The implementation of that depends a lot on how programs are proposed and how they will advertise and how food is offered.

  • An example of something that would not be eligible: you can’t go around the neighborhood with flyers specifically telling seniors to come to food distribution and then do something like check identification on site.
  • An example of something that would be eligible: distribution could be through a school and the target recipient would therefore be students because they are in the vicinity of the school. But if someone else came that wasn’t a student and also indicated that they needed food, the food would have to be available to them.

Not exactly. Increasing the amount of money that is used to purchase from farmers is one way to increase or expand but not the only way. Other ways to demonstrate an expansion could include changing types of products that are sourced, the number of farmers purchased from, or distribution locations, etc.

This is not allowable with LFPA funds. Food needs to be purchased either as unprocessed or minimally processed. If there is additional processing done before distribution that would be allowable, but that processing can’t be funded with LFPA funds.

Food can be purchased from a nonprofit that farms or is a food hub.

Many types and cuts of meat are eligible purchases. All of those products have to meet regulatory and food safety standards (that often means it has to be under state or USDA inspection). But meat in general is eligible as long as meets the definition of minimally processed or unprocessed.

Yes, if they are grown in Minnesota or within 400 miles of the distribution site.

Based on our understanding of the models that exists for donor milk programs, the individual that is donating milk is not typically compensated financially. In that case, the milk wouldn’t be an eligible product because a donation is not an eligible expense. The processing costs are also not eligible. Food has to be either unprocessed or minimally processed, and has to be purchased at that existing level of processing. The grant cannot fund additional processing that happens after purchase.

If the applicant is a socially disadvantaged farmer and identifies that in the application, you don’t need an additional letter from a socially disadvantaged farmer. However, there are still letters of support required from others involved in project planning.

There are certain metrics that the USDA is looking for in terms of new marketing opportunities for farmers and then new distribution outside of traditional hunger relief programs. Are there new marketing opportunities for the farmers involved? Examples could be new markets to the lead applicant, or new to at least one partner in the project. It would also count as new on the distribution end if it is new to the recipients. It’s fairly broad; if there are specific scenarios in question, you can share more information. Overall, it’s looking for a new marketing opportunity and/or new distribution.

Farmers don’t have to have GAP audits in place to sell into LFPA. There is a question about food safety practices in the application that does ask applicants to indicate food safety considerations in procurement and distribution. But audits are not a requirement.

On the cottage food side of things, a lot of cottage food products aren’t eligible because they are considered fully processed as opposed to minimally or unprocessed. For example, jam and bread fully are processed and therefore not eligible. Cottage food also typically has to be distributed to the end consumer. So selling it to a grantee who is then further distributing it, would be ineligible.

 

Those requirements only apply to the LFPA program, so 70% of the food items paid for with LFPA grant funds must be from Minnesota and from socially disadvantaged farmers. They are not intended to be criteria for the normal operations of an organization.

Yes, the definition for socially disadvantaged is broad. It is the USDA definition and it isn’t specific about types of financial assistance, so we understand that any could qualify. We ask that farmers self-identify whether they are socially disadvantaged, and have a form that grantees can provide to participating farmers that asks that question. We do not need to see that form, we just need the answer to be entered on a grantee’s reporting spreadsheet. The only thing we ask for regarding that status is a yes or no, nothing more about how or why the farmer identifies as socially disadvantaged. Our required data report asks for the farmer name, whether they are socially disadvantaged, city, county, and zip code, because that is what we are required to report to the USDA.

We don’t have a specific list that we can share aside from what the USDA has in their definition (see page 10 of the RFP, or question #4 in this section). That being said, we have asked about some products specifically and know that maple syrup, wild rice, and oats are allowed, and the fish could be allowed if it is raw and just cut into fillets (no added ingredients or further processing). Cheese is allowed, but cannot have added ingredients beyond what is need to make the cheese from fluid milk (For example, jalapeño cheddar is not allowed).

Project expenses and budgeting

Yes, funding can be used for expenses such as food transportation, food storage, and other supporting expenses.

Some examples of supporting expenses include staff time for grant reporting, meeting with farmers, or renting event space to host a meeting for the project. More information can be found on pages seven and eight of the RFP.

Yes, there was typo in the original RFP and we published an updated RFP on our website on May 3. The required budget template has always had the correct 65% number.

Yes, that is an option for supporting expenses.

This would likely fall under the food transportation expense category, depending on how the truck is being used.

Yes, that is an optional expense. You would have to decide whether that’s a contract or subrecipient relationship (pages 5 – 7 of the RFP) and indicate that in your budget accordingly. Those expenses would be factored into the 15% cap for the supporting expense category.

Funding can be available to either the lead applicant or for other individuals that are doing work. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a subrecipient; that designation is entirely based on the nature of the relationship, the duties involved, and whether you’re buying a specific good or service from them or whether you are delegating a piece of the project management to them. We suggest reviewing the RFP examples (pages 5 – 6) and the Code of Federal Regulations (2 CFR 200.331) which is the ultimate source for indicating how a subrecipient relationship is determined. It’s highly variable and dependent on the situation.

Food storage does not necessarily have to be at a commercial facility, but if you are procuring services from someone who isn’t generally in the business of offering those services, then you need to be prepared to demonstrate how those costs are reasonable, and potentially have done some research on average price points and how that compares.

Application review and scoring

No, that’s not factored into scoring. However, that work and other project work has to be updating or expanding work. It can’t be a continuation or duplication of work that is already being done.

Pre-award risk assessment and management of grant funds

Those materials are submitted later. Entities that are recommended for an award will be asked to submit additional documentation for the pre-award risk assessment process, as outlined in the Request for Proposals (page 15).

When the RFP references financial history (in regard to pre-award risk assessment and advances), it’s about the financial history of the lead applicant, whether that’s a business or a nonprofit, etc. Staff experience could factor in, but it’s really about the applicant entity itself and evaluating the history of that entity.

No. Keeping the funds separate comes down to the paperwork, tracking, and systems involved. It doesn’t have to be a separate account; but you need to be able to keep that management distinct for the grant funds.               

Other general questions and background

An electronic copy of the application is available through the application portal. If you are a new user, you will need to create an account. View instructions on creating an account. Once you are logged in, select "MN Local Food Purchase Assistance Program 2024."

The maximum amount that an applicant can request for Round 2 of the program is $125,000. Awarded funds will be available after a contract is final (summer 2024) through Sept 14, 2025.

MN LFPA staff can provide technical assistance with the online application system and use of the budget template. Examples of this are if there’s something that goes wrong with the application form, or if there’s difficulty in downloading or uploading a required document, etc. We can provide that type of assistance any time before 5:00pm on May 20th. Applications can be submitted until 11:59pm on May 20th so we recommend starting on your application ahead of the due date so that you can make sure there you don’t run into any challenges after 5:00pm.

Among the current set of grantees there are some that are focused entirely on the summer months. However, there are number of grantees that have been doing procurement and distribution during the winter and early spring. We saw a number of storage crops being purchased in the fall and that has continued through January/February/March, along items such as honey, maple syrup, wild rice, other grains, and meats. It highly depends on the project.

The 2024 LFPA Connections Directory has contact and background information on people and organizations that have services and interest in working on projects specifically related to LFPA. Fill out the online directory form if you want to be listed in the directory and want others to contact you.
A more general resource not specific to LFPA would be Minnesota Grown. Farmers advertise themselves and share about their business, and it can be a good place to connect with farmer suppliers.

There aren’t food banks currently represented among grantees, though there are food shelves represented. Food distribution is taking place through a fairly wide range of distribution models. Some of that that does involve traditional food shelf distribution, but we have examples of projects distributing through senior housing, housing for individuals recovering from chemical dependencies or mental health challenges, through healthcare networks, and community events. The complete list of grantees and projects is available on our website.

We had 50 applicants in the first round, so 66% of applicants were awarded. That may be different this time around.

You can apply as a farmer, or you can look to partner with other people on an application and you could supply food for that project. The LFPA Connections Database is a resource that could help connect you to people looking for food for their project. You can advertise your foods and services by filling out an online directory form and find potential contacts by viewing the public responses. Your farmers market manager may also be a resource to talk to about this program.