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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
The Linn County Food Systems Council started accepting grant applications on Monday for its Food Access, Resiliency and Equity program.
The grant program is funded by American Rescue Plan Act dollars. The Linn County Board of Supervisors allocated $250,000 in ARPA funding to support local food initiatives to increase food security in the county earlier this year.
FARE grants will support food-related businesses and nonprofit organizations in Linn County that continue to play a key role in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, promote public health and wellness and address systemic food-related challenges, according to the Linn County website.
Applicants can request from $1,000 to $25,000.
Eligible entities include, but are not limited to: “farmers, processors, packagers, distributors, grocers, educators, administrators, social service agencies, nonprofits, food pantries, restaurants, food entrepreneurs, and food innovators,” according to a county news release.
“We identified all of these gaps in our food system over the course of the pandemic that were also compounded by the derecho,” Food Systems Council member August Stolba told The Gazette. “We felt we could make a difference by making this ARPA funding available to a wide variety of people within our local food system. We wanted to create a broad pool and allow people to explain what they've seen in the system and how they can fill those gaps.”
Some project examples the county included in the grant’s description are a refrigerator truck for a food pantry, a high tunnel hoop house for a farm, reestablishing a brick and mortar restaurant, growing a value-added processing business and food-focused educational programs.
Ineligible costs include personal-use gardens, purchase of alcohol, drugs or tobacco and bulk food purchases.
The Food Systems Council was already working on the framework of a grant program in 2019, but the pandemic brought these issues to the forefront and with that, more funding has been made available on the federal level since.
“Before the pandemic, we were looking at doing a grant program to help these businesses and nonprofits with food system issues and it's a silver lining of the pandemic because all of this funding is now available,” Stolba said.
Funding for the FARE program will be awarded through multiple grant cycles. Applications for the competitive grant program are due by 5 p.m. Jan. 15, and the grant awards will be announced in March. Application information is available online at Linn County’s website. A second funding cycle for FARE grants will open July 2023.
In addition, a virtual workshop will be held on Dec. 15 for those interested in learning more about process. Registration for the application clinic is also available on the county’s website.
"We also have three words part of this: access, equity and resilience. That’s what we’re looking for,” Stolba said. “… Are they increasing access to fresh local produce, community resiliency by increasing processing capacity, or are they going out there to increase equity in our communities.”
“I think that's what we've struggled with,” Stolba added. “... How do we give people examples but also try not to limit who can apply? We don't want the language we use to make people feel like they can’t apply.”
The $250,000 is part of the $44 million in total ARPA funding that Linn County received. ARPA was a federal $1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill passed in March 2021.
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