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USDA Awards SDSU With Nearly $4 Million Grant



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For some who live in rural areas, going to the grocery store or having access to healthy food doesn’t come easy. But the United States Department of Agriculture has teamed up with South Dakota State University with a goal to change that.

"When I looked at all the awards, there was none that was more exciting to me than this award that is coming to South Dakota State University,” said Kathleen Merrigan, Agriculture Deputy Secretary USDA.

It was a big day for SDSU. The USDA awarded the school with a nearly $4 million grant to start a program called ‘Voices for Food.’
 
“Understanding the importance of healthy good access, locally grown regional food systems,” said Merrigan.

Over the next five years, SDSU will lead five other universities across the Midwest. They’ll be creating and implementing ‘food policy councils’ for what the director of SDSU’s Food and Families Program Suzanne Stulka calls ‘food deserts.’

“(It’s) a low income community where at least 33 percent or a substantial amount of its residents live more than 10 miles from a large grocery or supermarket,” Stulka explained.

The councils will be put in charge of making sure food pantries are able to have better access to nutritious food. One example will be connecting pantries to local farmers and making sure no food goes to waste.

“It really integrates researchers with extension team members with that community and its partners,” said Stulka.

For the first year, researches will look for the communities they wish to help. Then for the second through fourth years they will create and implement the program. Then for the final year, they will make sure that program will be able to continue for years to come.

In the end, Stulka said these communities will have better access to fresh fruits, vegetables, and other nutritious foods they’ve been lacking.

“These choices will be healthy choices based on the USDA food guidance system what we know as my plate,” said Stulka.

“We've come a long way in the importance of nutritious food accessibility,” said Merrigan.

Of the $4 million granted to SDSU, $2 million of it will be used in South Dakota.

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