Reed Leads Introduction of EAT Local Foods Act

Published on Thursday, March 21, 2024

Bill would promote economic opportunities for farmers, fishermen, and producers and tackle food insecurity by increasing access to locally sourced, fresh, healthy, and nutritious food in underserved communities

WASHINGTON, DC -- In an effort to promote economic opportunities for farmers, fishermen, and food producers, strengthen the nation’s food supply chain network, and increase access to locally-grown, nutritious food in underserved communities, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) this week introduced the Expanding Access To (EAT) Local Foods Act (S.3982).  

Modeled on the successful Local Food Purchase Cooperative Agreement Program (LFPA), this bill would create a permanent grant program for state and tribal governments to procure local foods for distribution to nearby hunger relief programs.  It would leverage government procurement and purchasing power to increase access to locally-sourced, fresh, healthy, and nutritious food in underserved communities and help family farmers, fishermen, and local food producers grow their markets.

The measure is cosponsored by a dozen U.S. Senators: Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Laphonza R. Butler (D-CA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Angus King (I-ME), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tina Smith (D-MN), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), John Fetterman (D-PA), and Peter Welch (D-VT).  

During the COVID pandemic, Congress made $900 million available for U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) food purchasing efforts through the LFPA.  This programs helped strengthen local and regional food systems, improved agricultural supply-chain resiliency, and supported underserved producers and communities.  Using LFPA funds, states set up approved programs to purchase food produced within the state or within 400 miles of delivery destination, which was then distributed through food banks, pantries, and other food distribution centers where hungry families in need can receive food.

In Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM), working with nonprofits like Farm Fresh Rhode Island, was awarded a total of $1.78 million to purchase local foods for distribution within the state.  To date, DEM, Farm Fresh, and their partners, have purchased food from 95 local producers and distributed that nutritious, local food to over 65,000 Rhode Islanders.  

The LFPA is scheduled to sunset once the $900 million in one-time funds are expended.  The EAT Local Foods Act would codify the program into law, providing permanent funding to ensure the program continues. 

“The EAT Local Foods Act would strengthen food supply chains while delivering food to those who need it and ensure food banks and pantries are stocked with nutritious goods.  The LFPA demonstrated a successful model that improved food and agricultural supply chain resiliency while providing locally-grown food to organizations that reach underserved communities.  This cost-effective program should be extended, not ended.  We can’t afford to lose ground and this bill plants the seed for continued, sustainable investment in family farmers, fishermen, ranchers, producers, and our local food systems.  It gives people in need access to fresh, healthy food, and strengthens local economies,” said Senator Reed.  “It’s also good for the environment because it means locally grown produce and products are consumed in nearby communities rather than shipped off to faraway destinations.  The pandemic is over, but we still have a long way to go to serve food insecure neighbors and the EAT Local Foods Act will put more fresh, healthy food on people’s tables.”

"The EAT Local Foods Act will continue to build upon the success of Rhode Island’s LFPA program in strengthening our local food system and helping get more fresh, RI Grown produce and RI Seafood to all of our communities, but especially our underserved communities," said Governor Dan McKee. “I am grateful for Senator Reed’s leadership in supporting our state’s efforts to bolster local farms and the seafood industry, support community health, and improve food security."

"LFPA program funding has allowed DEM, Farm Fresh Rhode Island and our local partners to invest in resources to strengthen new and existing networks of food producers, community organizations, and distributors to purchase food from local and underserved producers and harvesters," said DEM Director Terry Gray. "Senator Reed’s introduction of the EAT Local Foods Act sends a strong signal that Rhode Island remains committed to supporting a locally based, sustainable food system that is resilient in the face of challenges and is equitable, just, and in particular focuses on the needs of socially disadvantaged communities, farmers, and fishers.”

The EAT Local Foods Act would accomplish three main objects. First, it would support local economic development by creating new access to the hunger relief market for local farmers and fishermen. This, in turn, will establish a new, reliable stream of orders for small, beginning, and underserved farmers, ranchers, and fishers, giving these businesses the financial security to invest and further expand.  Second, the bill would strengthen our domestic agriculture supply chain.  By investing in local food distribution, the bill would help build local businesses that support durable and resilient local food systems.  Third, the EAT Local Foods Act would help combat food insecurity by providing fresh, nutritious, local food to underserved communities, feeding more families and helping ease the strain on the hunger relief system. 

The EAT Local Foods Act  is supported by a wide range of farmers, food hubs, coalitions, and business networks from across the country, including the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, the National Center for Frontier Communities, the Wallace Center at Winrock International, and more.  

In Rhode Island, the bill is supported by several leading organizations, including: the Rhode Island Community Food Bank, Farm Fresh Rhode Island, the Commercial Fisheries Center of Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Food Policy Council, and Southside Community Land Trust.  

"We applaud Senator Reed’s introduction of the EAT Local Foods Act. Rhode Island farmers and fishers need reliable wholesale markets, and all of our residents need access to fresh, nutritious food,” said Nessa Richman, Network Director of the Rhode Island Food Policy Council. “This is a win-win that can help Rhode Island and the nation be more resilient to supply chain shocks from public health emergencies and climate-related disasters. It aligns perfectly with the Rhody Feeding Rhody Alliance and other transformative local food systems initiatives that are underway across the country."

“The LFPA program has been a transformative opportunity to connect farmers and eaters in Rhode Island,” said Jesse Rye, Executive Director of Farm Fresh Rhode Island. “Farm Fresh RI applauds Senator Reed's leadership efforts to sustain this work through the EAT Local Foods Act. We are proud to partner with Southside Community Land Trust, the African Alliance of RI, the Commercial Fisheries Center of RI, the Rhode Island Food Policy Council and others to ensure that the LFPA gets resources to those most in need.”