USDA Planning Grant
Southwest Louisiana AHEC was awarded the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Services Local Food Promotion Program grant. The project, titled Building Community Food Systems in Southwest Louisiana, was a one-year grant and was conducted in collaboration with LEDA, LCVC and the Acadiana Food Alliance (AFA). The overarching intent of the project was to rapidly grow the food economy of Acadiana. In Southwest Louisiana, the increasing demand for fresh, healthy produce has been reflected on area restaurant menus, popularized by prominent local chefs, and evidenced by regularly sold-out booths at farmers markets. Despite the growing demand and supply of local food, there are still relatively few local food business enterprises. New local food endeavors have limited access to capital, uncertain market conditions, and unreliable income streams. The lack of intermediaries in the local food supply chain limits the buying and selling options of Acadiana farmers and entrepreneurs. This feasibility study helped determine the market constraints and viability for aggregation, storage and distribution enterprises that could connect growers and buyers in Southwest Louisiana. Consumers, society and the environment will ultimately benefit, as the regional food system expands and grows.