USDA Distributes $258,654 to Promote Farmers Markets in Chicago

By Patrick Burke | September 25, 2012 | 6:06 PM EDT

First lady Michelle Obama shops at a farmers market in Washington, D.C. (AP)

( -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) gave $258,654 to four different organizations in Chicago to set up and increase awareness of farmers’ markets for low-income consumers.

The grants to the Chicago-based organizations are part of the USDA’s “Farmers’ Market Promotion Program,” which has been in place since 2002. The grants range in size from $28,108 to $92,833.

According to the list of 2012 grantees released on Sept. 21, the Farmers’ Market Promotion Program distributed over $9 million in grants this year alone and more than $32 million since 2006.

Many of the grants will establish and promote farmers’ markets in low-income areas of cities such as New York, Chicago, Atlanta and Washington, D.C.

Other uses of grant money include setting up public assistance and food stamp (EBT and SNAP) terminals at farmers’ markets, as well as putting on cooking demonstrations to educate low-income consumers on how to prepare healthy meals.

Grants must exceed $5,000 and stay below $100,000, and projects must be finished within 24 months after receiving the award.

Loyola University of Chicago, as an example, received $47,583 to send direct mail out to the low-income community informing residents about the Loyola Farmers Market and providing tips on “food preparation.”

The grant description reads: “$47,583 to Loyola University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, for a promotional campaign to increase patronage at the Loyola Farmers Market by members of its lowincome and elderly community through targeted direct mailing to announce food benefits programs accepted by the market and to educate consumers about food preparation.”

With its $90,130 grant, Fuller Park Community Development Corporation will add more vendors to an already existing farmers’ market, and increase the number of days per week the market is open.

USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan announced on Sept. 21 over $9 million in federal grants for FY 2012 that have been awarded to grantees in 39 states, in addition to the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

Merrigan added that funding for future grantees in the Farmers Market Promotion Program will be contingent on the passage of the 2012 Farm Bill.

(AP Photo)

“This year's Farmers Market Promotion Program awards are diverse and illustrate the many different ways farmers are directly connecting to communities and consumers,” said Merrigan, who made the announcement in Cleveland, Ohio.

“From starting up mobile markets to helping new farmers and ranchers, these grants will create new economic opportunities and encourage consumers to eat healthier,” she said.

The Farmers Market Promotion Program supports farmers’ markets, along with other means of “direct producer-to-consumer market opportunities.”

“This program provides non-construction grants that target improvements and expansion of domestic farmers’ markets, roadside stands, community-supported agriculture programs, agri-tourism activities, and other direct producer-to-consumer market opportunities,” according to the program’s website.