Honolulu, Hawaiʻi, May 3, 2023 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced finalists for the USDA Regional Food Business Centers (Regional Food Centers). Twelve organizations, including the Hawaiʻi Good Food Alliance (HGFA), have been selected as finalists to establish Regional Food Centers that will provide coordination, technical assistance, and capacity building to help farmers, ranchers, and other food businesses access new markets and navigate federal, state, and local resources, thereby closing the gaps to success. In September 2022, USDA announced $400 million available to fund this initiative.
Pending an Administrative Review, USDA and the Hawaiʻi Good Food Alliance will enter into a cooperative agreement to establish an Islands and Remote Areas USDA Regional Food Business Center that will serve Hawaiʻi, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa, Alaska, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
“USDA is excited to be partnering with the Hawaiʻi Good Food Alliance on this innovative and unprecedented initiative,” said Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Jenny Lester Moffitt. “By leveraging the expertise now available through these Regional Food Centers, USDA can offer unique support for local food systems development across the country.”
“The non-contiguous islands and remote areas face comparable challenges such as infrastructure inadequacies, climate change effects, and shipping barriers which makes them susceptible to supply chain disruptions exacerbated by their dependence on imports for over 90% of their food supply. To address this, our approach is to reinforce the missing link in local food systems using food hubs and networks like the Hawaiʻi Food Hub Hui (HFHH), a project of HGFA, to increase local food production and advance local market opportunities for marginalized farmers.” said HFHH Director Dr. Saleh Azizi.
Collectively, the organizations selected reflect an impressive cross-section of the varied institutions, organizations, and associations that must cooperate to achieve genuinely strong and distributed food systems. Hawaiʻi Good Food Alliance and the other selected organizations are already engaging with grassroots food and farm organizations and employing a range of creative strategies to build food system resiliency in their regions.
In total, USDA will establish 12 Regional Food Business Centers that will serve all areas of the country. Regional Food Centers will target their work to historically underinvested communities in their region.
Find more information on the Agricultural Marketing Service’s (AMS) Regional Food Business Centers webpage.
This Center serves the Nation’s Island States, Territories, and Commonwealths listed above. While not contiguous, these islands and remote areas face similar challenges including, food transport logistics, underdeveloped infrastructure, extreme climate change impacts and legal barriers such as highly regulated shipping requirements and exclusions from regional free trade agreements. The region relies on imports for over 90% of their food supply putting them at extreme risk of supply chain disruptions and high food prices.
The Center Partnership plans to create a central clearinghouse for financial support and value chain development supported by a virtual Community of Practice. It will be organized into three subregions that bridge the distance across the islands and remote areas. Subregions will be led by a Key Partner who has the expertise, relationships and programming capacity and supported by Collaborators to facilitate decision-making, technical assistance, coordination with USDA and the dissemination of the Business Builder awards.
The proposal’s work plan concentrates on enhancing local food access and consumption through six key areas of focus: production, aggregation, value-added processing, distribution/transportation, market access/development, and capital acquisition. Activities include expansion and development of farms and food hubs, infrastructure development, increasing value-add processing operations, streamlining mid-tier distribution opportunities, market development and engagement with CDFIs for long term sustainability.
The central objective is to promote local market opportunities in local food production for marginalized farmers by strengthening farms, food hubs and food hub networks like the Hawaiʻi Food Hub Hui (HFHH). Throughout the Center’s duration, partners will play an active role in developing long-term finance and funding strategies. Hawaiʻi Good Food Alliance plans to launch the Hawaiʻi Good Food Fund (HGFF) in September 2023. The HGFF will provide technical support, financial access, and business development for producers and enterprises involved in the food value chain. It will collaborate with the Center to ensure sustainable funding opportunities both during and beyond the grant period.