US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is unveiling hundreds of millions of dollars in new USDA grant and loans to do things like establish grocery stores in underserved areas, build more cold storage facilities for fruits and vegetables and support training for employees in the meat and poultry industry.
Vilsack says $155 million in federal grants will be available to set up grocery stores in rural and urban communities that are considered “food deserts.” Six-hundred million will be awarded to expand or build new facilities that process and store fruits and vegetables. Three-hundred million is set aside to bolster organic food production.
Vilsack says other USDA initiatives will be expanded to support urban gardening as well as public schools that buy locally produced food. Vilsack is using $400 million to set up a new network of USDA centers that will help food producers and buyers connect on a regional basis and navigate their financial options.
A new $100 million fund will be for companies that come up with healthy, but less expensive menu items for school lunch programs. Vilsack says the goal is to spur innovation, but to also make school lunch options more attractive to the kids who eat the food. All of this new USDA spending was approved by congress in 2021 as part of the American Rescue Plan.