USDA Grant supports Finger Lakes Fresh connecting farmers, community

USDA Grant supports Finger Lakes Fresh connecting farmers, community

Press release from Challenge Workforce Solutions. (For additional coverage of this topic, listen to the radio interview, or read the PDF of the Tompkins Weekly article.)

Challenge Workforce Solutions Awarded $100K by USDA’s Local Food Promotion

ITHACA – Finger Lakes Fresh’s work to connect farmers across the region with communities seeking greater access to fresh produce has received support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The USDA has awarded Challenge Workforce Solutions, a $100,000 grant to support Finger Lakes Fresh and its efforts to promote farmers across the region and their products, and bring together local producers and Upstate New York institutions seeking fresh, healthy, locally grown food.

“We are extremely happy to have received this grant from the USDA to support the excellent work Finger Lakes Fresh is doing,” said Helen Talty, chairperson of Challenge’s Board of Directors. “With this funding, we will be better able to serve our community and work to connect our local farmers to consumers who would certainly benefit from greater access to fresh local produce.”

The grant also will support Finger Lakes Fresh’s pursuit of organic certification in its effort to work with more organic farms across the region. The food hub facility already has a Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) certification, which means products produced at the facility meet exceptionally high quality and food safety standards. Finger Lakes Fresh operates its Food Hub in Groton, where it produces products like multigrain tortillas and Empire apple chips. The facility is largely a processing center that aggregates local food, adds value to it – through washing, slicing, chopping, and packaging – and distributes it to stores, restaurants, schools, and other institutions through a large network of distributors.

Finger Lakes Fresh is one of five social enterprise businesses operated by Challenge, all developed to provide employment opportunities for people with disabilities and other barriers, while generating revenue to support Challenge’s programs and services. This model has a double bottom line – social and financial – and will support greater long-term sustainability for Challenge. When Challenge was founded in 1968, it provided job training and placement services to 30 people with disabilities. Today, the non-profit has evolved to meet the needs of the community and now serves more than 1,000 people annually through a wide variety of vocational programs and supports.

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