Cortland County gets $500k for local food promotion

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Cortland County has been awarded more than $600k in federal funding by the USDA’s Local Foods Promotion Program, through a competitive grant application submitted by Seven Valleys Health Coalition (SVHC).

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That will continue growing local food purchases in Cortland County and regionally.

Seven Valleys will work to support local food businesses and increase access to and consumption of locally and regionally produced agricultural products.

The award continues the work completed under their last USDA grant which ended in 2019.

More below from SVHC:

LFPP projects will include an update and expansion of the Cortland County Local Foods Map and Puzzling Produce videos; multimedia marketing of local foods including support for and expansion of the website created by Tompkins County Cooperative Extension.

Technical assistance for local food producers looking to increase capacity both for those interested in farm to institution opportunities and/or marketing.

The LFPP project also continues the efforts of Cortland’s Local Foods, Local Places Action Plan created in 2018 with technical assistance from the USDA and EPA federal agencies to the Cortland Food Project (CFP). The CFP is Cortland County’s food policy council, currently chaired by SVHC.

The CFP collaborates on efforts to create a local food system where all community members have access to healthy, affordable, equitable, and sustainable food sources.

CFP efforts and the LFLP plan have spurred other local projects including Cornell Cooperative Extension of Cortland County’s 2018 NYS Ag & Markets Farm to School grant and 2019 NYSDEC Municipal Food Waste Diversion grant awarded to the City of Cortland in coordination with the Health Foundation for Western and Central New York matching grant to SVHC, creating a new food waste program in Cortland.

“This current USDA LFPP grant is another great building block for Cortland’s food system,” said Susan Williams, SVHC Assistant Director. “We needed a fairly sizable match for this grant and were fortunately able to leverage our work with the City through the NYSDEC and Health Foundation for Western and Central New York food rescue program funding and in-kind donations from several of our project partners from the Cortland Food Project including the Hunger Coalition subcommittee, SUNY Cortland, and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Cortland County, in order to meet the matching funds required.”

Staff from SVHC will oversee grant implementation and also subcontract with a few project partners for specific elements including Main Street Farms, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County, and Food Feasible.

While this grant project builds on several years of food systems work, not all projects continue to be a focus in this round of funding.

“Having to let go of our plans for a year-round indoor farmers’ market and commercial kitchen at the Homer Ave. plaza was a really hard blow to us this year,” said SVHC Executive Director, Jackie Leaf. “We had been working for several years on that project but the pandemic ripped apart our whole business plan and there was just no way forward with the timeline for that location. Between that and the uncertainty of our traditional funding sources it is easy to get discouraged.”

“The news of this award reminded me just how resilient we are at Seven Valleys Health Coalition and here in Cortland. There are always ways to adapt. Hollenbeck’s Cider Mill’s operational changes to meet pandemic safety needs is a great example. There is always a way forward,” said Leaf.

“We’re excited about this project and all of the local food businesses we will be able to support for the next few years,” Williams added. “This grant like all those we have worked on before is truly a collaborative effort. We’re fortunate to have a community that does such a great job of supporting one another.”

The grant period runs from October, 2020 to September 2023.

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