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EPA Announces Partnership to Increase Access to Healthy Foods and Improve Public Health



June 4, 2024

Contact Information

U.S. EPA Press Office (press@epa.gov)


WASHINGTON—Today, June 4, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in partnership with the Appalachian Regional Commission, announced the selection of six communities that will receive technical assistance through the Local Foods, Local Places program. This shared effort will develop local food systems to advance environmental protection, strengthen local economies and further sustainability goals.

  

“Access to fresh, quality food is essential to good health, and supporting locally grown food options can help to reduce pollution, including greenhouse gas emissions,” said Vicki Arroyo, EPA Associate Administrator for Policy. “Our Local Foods, Local Places program provides technical assistance with proven strategies to help communities address their nutritional needs and economic development and environmental goals.”

 

Through this assistance, each community will pursue their local project planning goals: 

  • Braxton County, West Virginia is working with the town of Sutton to expand plans for its farmers market and transform a two-acre Main Street space. 

  • The city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania plans to engage residents and stakeholders to reimagine the Carrick Neighborhood Farmers Market. 

  • Turner Station in Baltimore County, Maryland intends to create more opportunities for healthy food access through a Turner Station food access and aggregation plan. 

  • The town of Spring City, Tennessee plans to improve access to local foods, with new community gardens and a farmers’ market to address priority health challenges such as obesity. 

  • The Rabbit Valley Farmers Market, Inc. in Ringgold, Georgia intends to improve community awareness about the market and related food programs on childhood health, nutrition education, improved food access and more.  

  • The City of Wellston, Ohio has proposed a centrally located downtown open-air market reutilizing a vacant city-owned lot.

More detailed descriptions of each community’s goals are included below.

 

In all six communities, EPA’s Office of Community Revitalization will convene federal, state, regional and local partners for two-day in-person workshops. This assistance will improve public health by increasing access to healthy foods for families and create jobs while protecting the environment. EPA’s Local Foods, Local Places program also helps to integrate food-system assets into communities, boosting local revitalization efforts and encouraging more active lifestyles, thereby improving overall quality of life, especially within marginalized communities. The program emphasizes sustainable food systems and expands economic opportunity, especially for local growers and value-added food processor entrepreneurs.

 

A pool of applicants from Appalachia was identified building upon a long-standing and productive relationship between EPA and ARC.


“Increasing the availability of locally grown foods not only provides healthy options for the residents of our Appalachian communities, but also spurs economic diversification across the region,” said Gayle Manchin, ARC Federal Co-Chair. “I’m heartened to know that ARC’s partnership with EPA will continue to support Appalachia’s longstanding agriculture industry and create new job opportunities.” 

Three communities that will receive Local Foods, Local Places technical assistance (Ringgold, Georgia; Wellston, Ohio; Turner Station in Baltimore County, Maryland) are also participating in an innovative new pilot program through EPA’s Superfund Redevelopment Program. The Superfund Redevelopment Program provides technical assistance to support holistic planning, reuse and redevelopment at or near Superfund sites. The program works with communities on project planning and design to utilize spaces outside Superfund site boundaries to address legacy environmental justice issues. This technical assistance will support communities seeking increased healthy food access, community connections and overall revitalization and economic recovery near designated Superfund sites.

  

“Communities that have faced long-term impacts from local Superfund sites may be ideal candidates for participation in the Local Foods, Local Places program,” said Cliff Villa, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Land and Emergency Management. “These three pilot workshops will help communities learn how the program can help them provide healthy local foods and benefit the local economy.”  Since 2014, the Local Foods, Local Places program has provided assistance to 137 communities across the country.  


Communities Selected for 2024 Local Foods, Local Places Program Technical Assistance 

EPA Region 3 


The County of Braxton, West Virginia is working with the town of Sutton to expand its farmers market and transform a two-acre Main Street space, identified through a Brownfields assessment, into a mixed-use community building. The revitalized site would connect Sutton’s downtown with a trailhead to the new Elk River Rail Trail. The project coordinates with other efforts, including the Sutton Main Street program, ARC Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization Initiative grants and EPA Brownfield grant resources for land revitalization planning.

“This award will enable Sutton and Braxton County to develop a stronger, more robust plan to create a farm-to-market strategy. It will strengthen our capacity to develop a community-based food market and to increase access to healthy foods for our citizens,” said Lisa Godwin, Braxton County Commission President. “Local Foods, Local Places will help us expand local agriculture production, foster community engagement and enhance economic opportunities." 


The city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is seeking assistance to engage residents and stakeholders to reimagine the Carrick Neighborhood Farmers Market, located in a neighborhood facing several social and economic challenges. Local Foods, Local Places assistance will help ensure the new market meets the needs of the community and yields greater participation of residents. The effort will improve neighborhood access to healthy foods, support local growers, and provide a safe urban green space for community gatherings. The site may also be utilized to support a local composting pilot program.

“The City of Pittsburgh is very excited for the opportunity to engage with EPA to wrap our arms around the Carrick Farmers Market and work with neighbors, our market vendors, and community partners to make this market a thriving asset in the community,” said Kathryn Vargas, Director, Department of Parks and Recreation. “We hope that this opportunity can serve as a model for community and stakeholder engagement for our other Neighborhood Farmers Markets.” 


Turner Station in Baltimore County, Maryland is a predominantly African American neighborhood impacted by the Bear Creek Sediments Superfund site and most recently the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse.  In partnership with the Turner Station Conservation Teams, the community seeks to create more opportunities for healthy food access through a Turner Station food access and aggregation plan. This includes redevelopment of Logan Village Shopping Center, which previously housed a neighborhood grocery store, and expanding food production by implementing a watering system for the Turner Station community garden.  The effort aligns with a larger commitment to address community needs by elevating residents' voices to county and state leaders, a key goal even before the bridge collapse focused attention on the community. “It has been almost 5 years since Turner Station lost our closest grocery store and the community was classified as food insecure,” said Gloria E. Nelson, President of Turner Station Conservation Teams, Inc. “Ensuring our residents have access to fresh, healthy food is imperative, so we are excited by the opportunities the partnership with EPA’s Local Foods, Local Places program will provide, in elevating resident voices and advocating for critical community infrastructure.” 


EPA Region 4 

The town of Spring City, Tennessee, plans to bring together several local groups to improve access to local foods, with new community gardens and a farmers’ market to address priority health challenges such as obesity. The work will be coordinated with downtown revitalization planning efforts to create community gardens as green infrastructure, to mitigate flooding risks and promote community gathering places. “The Town of Spring City is proud to have been selected to be part of the Local Foods, Local Places program,” said Stephania Motes, City Manager. “Our focus will be to create a farmers market and a community garden to help meet community needs as well as to boost our downtown revitalization efforts and to Agri-tourism in the area.” 


The Rabbit Valley Farmers Market, Inc. in Ringgold, Georgia, envisions farmers markets not only as a place to purchase fresh local foods, support local agriculture and promote healthier lifestyles, but also as a community gathering place for socialization, celebration and connection. The farmer’s market is seeking to collaborate with a more diverse set of local partners to improve community awareness about the market and related food programs on childhood health, nutrition education, improved food access and utilizing Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits.

Other local environmental education initiatives include composting, water conservation and community gardening. “My hope for this project is to create a more community-centered downtown and market, with a collective focus on health, wellbeing, environmental stewardship and service to others,” said Samantha Leslie, Executive Director of the Rabbit Valley Farmers Market


EPA Region 5 

The City of Wellston, Ohio, has proposed a centrally located downtown open-air market. Reutilizing a vacant city-owned lot that was originally the industrial Milton Coal and Furnace Company site, the new market would improve residents’ access to healthy food options. It complements local efforts to develop more complete streets and bike path networks, an Ohio Department of Transportation grant for streetscape improvements to better accommodate people with disabilities, and renovation of the old train depot as a community center.

“This project will not only benefit the citizens of Wellston, but potentially the entirety of Jackson and Vinton Counties,” said Mindy Barry-Eisnaugle, Administrative Assistant for the City of Wellston. “This will assist in our downtown revitalization and tourism efforts, all while providing our residents with healthier access to healthier food options and recreational opportunities.” 


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