Local Food System Gets Almost $200,000 Grant

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Local and regional food businesses will benefit from a grant of $198,000 dollars.

Agriculture Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development, Doug O'Brien, announced the funding Thursday during a visit to the Nelsonville Business Incubator.

The Rural Business Enterprise Grant (RBEG) will assist in the expansion of the local and regional food system in southeastern Ohio.

Appalachian Ohio's Rural Action based in Athens County will receive the funding.

Rural Action has been supporting local producers for more than two decades.

It is working with partners like the Appalachian Center for Economic Networks to support local food businesses in a tri-county food hub network in Athens, Morgan and Perry Counties.

Within this Southeast Ohio Food Hub Network the money will be used to support technical assistance, business planning and marketing assistance for growers as well as shared infrastructure resources.

Michelle Decker, Chief Executive Officer of Rural Action, said that many producers would be too busy running their businesses and would like to have someone else to provide, manage and maintain infrastructure.

"So we absorb that and that is how it is able to be accessible to more people," Decker explained.

Producers can aggregate material at these hubs and get it up from there to other markets.

The new grant for instance will help to create a centralized walk in cooling space at the Nelsonville Business Incubator.

Doug O'Brien called the investment a 'win-win' for the economy and for customers.

Rural Action estimates that it will help retain more than 275 food sector jobs and create 65 new jobs.

According to the organization southeatern Ohio is one of the national leaders in the local food movement.