One of the most prevalent issues at any time in the United States facing its people is the issue of food insecurity and food deserts. Individuals, families and especially children all over the country still as of 2020 lack access to fresh fruits and vegetables that provide essential nutrients that allow for proper development, brain function and to ensure that people can live healthy lives. For many in urban or rural communities, these necessary food items may be expensive or completely unavailable, as many communities face a situation where there is no proper grocery store for 10’s or 100’s of miles. This shortage and its results have led the USDA to offer grants to help mitigate this crisis even as the crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic ravages the country, and the world.
According to the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service: The grant program which is called The Texas NRCS Urban and Rural Conservation Project. This program was created in an “effort to challenge community organizations, educational institutions, and Indian tribes, to focus on local grassroots conservation efforts for the betterment of people and the environment”
The programs this grant will go towards funding are dedicated to the education of youth in rural and urban communities about the importance of healthy vegetables and fruits, the importance of proper agriculture, as well as how important conservation is. In addition, the purpose of these grant programs is to challenge community organizations and Native American tribes on the importance of community gardens and locally grown fruits and vegetables.
This grant is only open to independent, private, public, or state-controlled school districts as well as private, public or state-controlled educational institutions for higher education.
NRCS Acting State Conservationist for Texas Drenda Williams had this to say about the program and its impact:
Even in today’s modern world, there are areas of the U.S. that don’t have easy access to affordable, fresh foods that make up a healthy diet, These areas are considered food deserts; this grant opportunity helps address those.”
There are four types of projects available for funding through these grants, they include community gardens, pollinator habitat, high tunnels, and rainwater harvesting systems. Applicants can actually choose to apply for one of these components or apply for all four in one application.