NORTH LITTLE ROCK, ARK. — The White House Rural Council and six federal agencies have announced that North Little Rock is one of 26 communities nationwide selected to participate in Local Foods, Local Places, a federal initiative providing technical support to integrate local food systems into community economic action plans. Under this effort, a team of agricultural, transportation, environmental, public health and regional economic experts will work directly with the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub and other community leaders to develop a Regional Food Innovation Center.
“We are very pleased and honored to receive this assistance to develop a Regional Food Innovation Center with our partners,” said Warwick Sabin, Executive Director of the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub. “We look forward to creating more opportunities for food producers, entrepreneurs and others to build sustainable businesses, stimulate the economy, and further improve their communities.”
Local Foods, Local Places is a partnership between the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Department of Transportation (DOT), the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), the Delta Regional Authority (DRA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The initiative draws on the Obama Administration’s Partnership for Sustainable Communities, USDA’s Seven Strategies for Economic Development and other place-based strategies to address regional challenges. The 26 Local Foods, Local Places communities were chosen from among 316 applicants. As part of this initiative, community partners receive federal support via technical assistance expertise to help develop local food projects which will contribute to North Little Rock’s economy. A complete list of the communities participating in the Local Food Local Places Initiative will be available on the White House Rural Council website.
The Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub is developing its Regional Food Innovation Center in partnership with the Arkansas Agriculture Department, University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture/UA Cooperative Extension Service, Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance, and other organizations.
The Regional Food Innovation Center will enjoy access to programs and resources already in place through the Innovation Hub that support technological and small business development, and the new facility will increase capacity for local food systems development in Central Arkansas. The Food Innovation Center will offer producers a package of support, education and resources for creating or expanding businesses, developing value-added products and moving those products to consumers. It will also promote innovations in agricultural technology, food safety and public health through its other major partners.
“The Local Foods, Local Places initiative illustrates that communities are thinking about creative ways to integrate local food in their community economic development plans,” said USDA’s Deputy Under Secretary Doug O’Brien. “The projects developed via Local Foods, Local Places will revitalize rural Main Streets and urban downtown areas, and create market opportunities for food producers and entrepreneurs.”
“Our agencies are working together to make a visible difference in communities,” said EPA Deputy Administrator Stan Meiburg. “By promoting farmers markets, community kitchens, and other efforts to increase access to healthy food, we are supporting local businesses in struggling downtown neighborhoods and preserving farms and undeveloped land. It’s good for people’s health, good for the economy, and good for the environment.”
“The Local Foods, Local Places Initiative recognizes the relationship between available transportation and the health and well-being of our communities. This collaboration provides local communities an opportunity to transform vacant spaces into vibrant spaces, which will provide better food options and better mobility for their residents,” said U.S. DOT Undersecretary Peter Rogoff.
“As a region historically centered on agriculture, it is important to strengthen and grow the local food systems that have supported the Delta communities and this country for centuries,” said DRA Federal Co-Chairman Chris Masingill. “The Delta Regional Authority is proud to support this innovative program which is in an investment into community health and economic growth for workers, businesses and families in the Delta region.”