WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has announced it has signed a cooperative agreement with Massachusetts under the Local Food Purchase Assistance Cooperative Agreement Program (LFPA). Through LFPA, the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) seeks to purchase and distribute locally grown, produced, and processed food from underserved producers.
“USDA is excited to partner with Massachusetts to promote economic opportunities for farmers and producers and to increase access to locally sourced, fresh, healthy, and nutritious food in underserved communities,” said USDA Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Jenny Lester Moffitt. “The Local Food Purchase Cooperative Agreement Program will improve food and agricultural supply-chain resiliency and increase local food consumption around the country.”
Through a collaborative and regional model, MDAR will administer LFPA funds by contracting with Massachusetts farmers, fisheries, producers, and distributors through a competitive bid process. Special consideration will be given to Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) farmers. MDAR will also utilize the Mass Exchange, a business-to-business platform where producers can post listings for products, to facilitate connections between regional organizations and local food producers.
Purchased food will be distributed to underserved communities across the commonwealth in an effort to promote equitable access to food. MDAR will partner with several organizations, which may include regional Buy Local organizations, community kitchens, food banks, food hubs, and emergency food organizations to distribute food purchases. It is expected MDAR will award over $4.3 million in funding, reach 100 producers, and distribute food to 100,000 people.
“Massachusetts agriculture played a pivotal role during the COVID-19 pandemic in terms of food production, distribution, and access for consumers in underserved and high-risk communities,” said Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources Commissioner John Lebeaux. “The funds received through the LFPA program will further enhance our efforts to create a robust and diverse food system and create more opportunities for socially disadvantaged farmers to grow, harvest, and distribute healthy, nutritious products to consumers across the Commonwealth. We thank USDA-AMS for this historic investment in the food system.”
The LFPA program is authorized by the American Rescue Plan to maintain and improve food and agricultural supply chain resiliency. Through this program, USDA will award up to $400 million through non-competitive cooperative agreements with state and tribal governments to support local, regional, and underserved producers through the purchase of food produced within the state or within 400 miles of delivery destination.
AMS looks forward to continuing to sign agreements under this innovative program that allows state and tribal governments to procure and distribute local and regional foods and beverages that are healthy, nutritious, and unique to their geographic area.
More information about the program is available on AMS’s Local Food Purchase Assistance Cooperative Agreement Program webpage.