BOSTON – Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), along with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Marketing Service, has announced that NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley of Woonsocket, R.I. is among 16 communities selected to receive technical assistance intended to boost economic opportunities for their local food providers, while promoting clean air, safe water, open space, and healthy food choices.
"The Trump Administration is committed to helping communities develop and strengthen their local food economy by investing in opportunity zones in often under privileged communities, some of which have been hard hit by the coronavirus outbreak," said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. "Support for local food initiatives can improve access to fresh foods, support farmers, grow new businesses, keep Americans healthy and improve the environment."
"EPA is excited to work with our Woonsocket partners once they're ready to switch their focus from COVID-19 impacts back to developing a more robust local food economy," said Dennis Deziel, regional administrator of EPA's New England office. "Our Local Foods Local Places program has shown impressive results helping communities to support their local farmers and food producers by maximizing local economic opportunities."
In Woonsocket, NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley intends to leverage improvements initiated through a Main Street Livability Plan by redeveloping defunct mill sites undergoing brownfields clean up to establish downtown as a vibrant food hub and center for food entrepreneurs. Later this year, a team of federal, state, and regional agricultural, environmental, public health, architectural and economic development experts will convene a workshop with the community to help develop an action plan, set goals, and identify local assets that can support the local food economy and contribute to downtown and neighborhood revitalization.
In addition to the Woonsocket group, the other recipients of federal technical assistance under the Local Foods, Local Places program include organizations located in: Fayette, Ala.; Redding, Calif.; Springfield, Ill.; Evansville, Ind.; North Lake Charles, La.; Opelousas, La.; Pelican Rapids, Minn.; Vicksburg, Miss.; Kansas City, Miss.; York, Neb.; Poughkeepsie, N.Y.; Salisbury, N.C.; Cottage Grove, Ore.; Harrisburg, Penn.; and Johnstown, Penn.
EPA will be flexible in working with the selected communities on next steps for the projects, considering that many communities are still dealing with issues related to COVID-19.
Nearly all communities selected include Opportunity Zones, in support of President Trump's Executive Order 13853. The assistance is provided through the Local Foods, Local Places (LFLP) program, a federal initiative that helps communities reinvest in existing neighborhoods and improve quality of life through the sustainable development of their local food economy.