RALEIGH, N.C. – Beginning Oct. 1, farmers markets operators and local food hubs can apply for assistance through the COVID-19 Emergency Aid for Farmers Market Operators and Local Food Hubs program. A total of $750,000 will be available from federal COVID-19 funds earmarked for North Carolina.
Funding is meant to assist with losses from reduced number of vendors, plus offset additional expenses associated with offering personal protective equipment, hand sanitizer and handwashing stations, and added COVID-19 educational materials. Eligible categories for emergency aid include, but not limited to, labor, technology or software upgrades, infrastructure enhancements, COVID-19 education materials, PPE and test kits.
“The deadline to apply is Oct. 22, which is a fairly short application period. It is imperative that operators submit their applications quickly, so we can distribute the funds quickly to meet the federal rules,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “The pandemic has shown us the important role farmers markets and food hubs provide in communities. I am grateful the General Assembly approved the use of the CARES Act funds to ensure these sites continue to operate and exist.”
Two meetings are scheduled to help with application questions. They will be held Oct. 7 from 10-11 a.m. and Oct. 8 from 7-8 p.m. To join either session, use this link or call 1-984-204-1487, then enter Conference ID 144 849 187 followed by the # key when prompted.
The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in serious and substantial impacts on the food supply chain, including farmers markets and local food hubs across North Carolina. Some markets were not able to open due to state or local orders, and others had to reduce the number of vendors to ensure proper social distancing. Additionally, local food hubs lost sales opportunities due to mandated school closures and food service disruptions.
Statewide there are over 250 farmers markets, over 160 roadside stands and 20 USDA registered food hubs.
Details regarding the COVID-19 Emergency Aid for Farmers Market Operators and Local Food Hubs, including definitions of markets and food hubs, are available at http://www.ncagr.gov/disaster/
–Beth Farrell, NCDA&CS