UNC Proposal for Improving Access to Local Food Gets Federal Support

UNC students work in the garden they created as part of a summer urban farming course.

A plan proposed by the University of Northern Colorado to partner with the city of Greeley, downtown businesses and community organizations to connect existing food-related health and well-being programs and improve access to healthy local food will receive technical assistance through the White House Rural Council's Local Food, Local Places initiative.

The UNC proposal was one of 27 from communities across the U.S. chosen to receive assistance this year. The awards were announced Jan. 25 by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. More than 300 communities applied to the program in its second year.

The proposal submitted by UNC faculty member Kevin Cody, with the support of UNC's Office of Civic Engagement, envisions a partnership of local entities working together to strengthen existing local food systems, provide area residents with more options for eating healthy, locally-grown produce and eliminate area food deserts like the one caused by last year's closing of the Safeway store in downtown Greeley.

Cody, who teaches in UNC's Environmental and Sustainability Studies program, thinks the UNC student farm started last spring as part of one of his courses will play a key role in the partnership and foresees the project also providing opportunities for other UNC students to gain real-life experience in marketing, dietetics and nutrition and other disciplines.

Among the local entities that have committed to the partnership are the city of Greeley, Greeley's Downtown Development Authority, the Weld County Department of Public Health and Environment, Greeley-Evans School District 6 Nutrition Services, WiseAcre Greenhouse, which served as the primary location of the UNC student farm during the most recent growing season, and the Northern Colorado Food Cluster, a consortium of local produce growers that supply local farmers markets and other entities such as restaurants and the recently opened Farmers Pantry on 16th Street.

"This project is definitely a win-win-win situation," Cody said. "UNC students will be provided with opportunities for hands-on learning and community engagement, residents' will have more options for eating healthy and locally-grown produce and existing health and well-being initiatives in Greeley will be better integrated."

Cody also said that the project could provide downtown businesses with an opportunity to attract customers through marketing campaigns targeted at revitalizing Greeley's agrarian roots.

According to Cody, partnership representatives will meet this spring to develop a plan to achieve his proposal's goals. They'll be assisted by a team of experts from the Local Food, Local Places initiative that will assist in developing the plan and identify targeted resources from the initiative's participating federal agencies to help implement the plan.

Participating federal agencies include the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Transportation, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For more information about the Local Food, Local Places initiative, visit http://www.epa.gov/smartgrowth/local-foods-local-places.