Funds from the most recent federal coronavirus relief package, the American Rescue Plan (ARP), will soon be available to municipalities. The program’s preliminary guidance cites food insecurity as one of the reasons these resources are being distributed, and states that funds may be spent “To respond to the public health emergency or its negative economic impacts, including assistance to households, small businesses, and nonprofits, or aid to impacted industries such as tourism, travel, and hospitality,” giving cities and towns an opportunity to make investments in the food supply chain to help ensure food security and better access to healthy food.
Local food system advocates should urge local leaders to dedicate a portion of the resources to addressing local food supply chain needs. To help begin these conversations, the Collaborative has developed this tool to share with mayors, city council members, select boards, town administrators, and other municipal officials and candidates for office.
Cities and towns may receive half of the funds they are eligible for as soon as May 2021. Cities with populations of greater than 50,000 people will receive amounts based on a federal formula (listed here), while the funds for smaller municipalities will be disbursed by the state (estimated amounts here).
While there are some restrictions on how these funds can be spent, the guidance is broad and suggests that most projects related to ensuring recovery and building resilience will be eligible. In cases where food system needs aren’t eligible for ARP funding, municipalities may have the ability to divert other resources to these programs, using the ARP dollars to fill the gap. For instance, a city may be able to use ARP resources to support a community health center, freeing up tax dollars that had been intended to pay for that center to instead support local food system needs.
Please share the tool with local leaders. Other good resources include Making the Most of the American Rescue Plan and About COVID-19 Federal Funds. The Collaborative’s publication Local Food Systems: The role of municipal governments provides additional advocacy tips and ideas for local food system interventions. Contact Winton at the Collaborative with any questions.