MDA announced Good Food Access Program awardees

Minnesota Department of Agriculture

St. Paul, Minn. — The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) is pleased to announce that eight statewide projects have been awarded funding through the Good Food Access Program (GFAP). A total of $150,000 in grant funds has been awarded to projects to purchase equipment and make physical improvements, increasing access to affordable, nutritious, and culturally appropriate foods in underserved and low- and moderate income communities.

“These eight projects were selected during a competitive process because we believe they will have a strong impact in their communities,” said MDA Local Food and Nutrition Programs Coordinator Ashley Bress. “Expensive equipment and these kinds of physical improvements can be a significant barrier for grocery stores and small food retailers. The Good Food Access Program aims to eliminate some of that financial burden so retailers can sell more of the nutritious foods their communities are seeking.”

Awardees plan to use GFAP grant funding to purchase coolers and freezers, shelving, and mobile food trucks.

Badal Aden Ali of Minnesota Halal Meat & Grocery in Saint Cloud was awarded a GFAP Grant to purchase and install a dairy cooler, walk-in freezer, produce display case, and shelving. Ali says the grant funds will help address the needs of many of Saint Cloud’s refugees and immigrants by providing nutritious and culturally appropriate foods.

White Earth Nation, a Native American tribal community in White Earth, Minnesota, will use GFAP Grant funds to purchase a mobile food truck for the burgeoning White Earth Mobile Market, and vegetable display coolers to house produce at two convenience stores on the reservation. Up to 90 percent of White Earth is considered a federally recognized food dessert, meaning access to nutritious foods is limited.

“A lot of people on White Earth reservation don’t have access to healthy or locally produced food,” said Zachary Paige, Food Sovereignty Coordinator with White Earth Natural Resources Department. “White Earth is a rural community, and the funny thing is, people do grow food. We’re connecting those people with the people that want it.”

A survey of more than 200 White Earth residents revealed that community members wanted to see more healthy food options at local convenience stores and were interested in a mobile food unit. Paige hopes the GFAP Grant funds will address both needs. The display coolers will increase access to fresh produce; and the White Earth Mobile Market can be used to deliver healthy foods to elders, or as a traveling demonstration truck to teach community members how to cook with traditional foods grown in and around White Earth, like wild rice, Native corn, and edible beans.

According to a 2016 study published by the Federal Reserve Bank and Wilder Research, roughly 30 percent of Minnesotans have low retail access to healthy food. GFAP grants were created to help stimulate sales of affordable, nutritious, and culturally appropriate foods for Minnesotans who may face low access to those foods.

For more information, including a full list of recipients, visit http://www.mda.state.mn.us/grants/grants/gfapequipmentgrant.aspx.