The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) awarded more than $165,000 in grants to ten food hub projects that will help Minnesotans gain access to locally grown and raised foods.
The competitive Agricultural Growth, Research, and Innovation (AGRI) Food Hub Grants were awarded to food hubs and other alternative community-based food distribution businesses throughout the state of Minnesota.
Awardees will use AGRI Food Hub Grant funds to develop their business plans, conduct feasibility studies, or create marketing plans; other projects will use funds to purchase equipment, or make physical improvements to their businesses that will allow them to purchase, process and distribute more Minnesota agricultural products.
Increasing healthy food access for Minnesotans in all parts of the state remains a priority for Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith.
“More than 1.6 million Minnesotans live in a food desert, or more than one mile from a grocery store in urban areas or ten miles in rural areas,” said Lt. Governor Tina Smith. “These grants issued by the Agriculture Department will help reduce these disparities across the state, and help more Minnesotans access nutritious, affordable food options.”
Jim Gehrke has led efforts to complete business planning for a proposed food hub for the City of Crookston. AGRI Food Hub Grant funds will continue Gehrke’s work to examine the feasibility of a food hub in that area, where about 90 percent of farmers surveyed voiced interest in selling more locally grown produce to a food hub. The proposed Crookston food hub would also work with schools and other institutions to help distribute Minnesota agricultural products.
“There’s a lot of excitement in finding a way to bring healthier, locally grown produce and food into schools, and we’re feeding the next generation” said Gehrke. “That should be a high priority for us. If we’re able to do that and bring quality produce into the schools at a low cost, then everybody wins because that leads to economic opportunities and expansion in regions that may otherwise be struggling to grow.”
Other projects will use AGRI Food Hub Grants to purchase equipment. The Hmong American Farmers Association (HAFA) will use funds to purchase and install the cooling system for its cold storage space in a proposed aggregation, packing, and cooling facility. The facility will be built on HAFA’s 155-acre educational farm in Dakota County. HAFA projects that the new facility could boost current food hub sales by more than 80 percent, offering fresh, Minnesota grown produce to roughly 200,000 residents.
AGRI Food Hub Grant funds were awarded to the following organizations:
Hmong American Farmers Association – St. Paul
Project Sweetie Pie – Minneapolis
Sprout MN, LLC – Little Falls
City of Crookston – Crookston
Greenhouse MN, LLC – Eden Prairie
Orr Recreation and Resource Center, Inc. – Orr
Real Food, LLC – Willmar
Waite House Community Center – Minneapolis
Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe – Cass Lake
For more information about the MDA’s AGRI Program, please visit www.mda.state.mn.us/grants/agri.aspx.
Alauna Yust, MDA Communications