Friday, January 15

SU Ag Center’s St. Helena Farmers Market turns a Food Desert into a Healthier Community

 

Local farmers are providing fresh fruits and vegetables to the residents of a food desert through the Southern University Ag Center's St. Helena Farmers Market.


St. Helena, La. –  The small parish of St. Helena is located in Southeast, Louisiana with a population of 10,016 residents. Although the parish is comprised of cities covered in green pastures and rural scenes, ideal for farm life, it is classified by the USDA as an extreme food desert. As a result of the scarcity of nutritious foods, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported the health risk of St.  Helena's citizens as severe, due to high percentages of hypertension, diabetes, strokes, and cancer which riddles this small community.

Having only two grocery stores and little to no access to fresh produce, the Southern University Ag Center’s  Agricultural and Natural Resources unit recognized the need for a change and sought ways to bring aid to the community.

Southern University Ag Center Ag and Natural Resources Agent for St. Helena Parish, Burnell Muse met with farmers and various store owners in and around the area. Through these meetings, it became clear that the farmers in this parish produced quite a bit of vegetables nearly all year. Yet, the issue was not a supply shortage of food, but instead a disconnect between growers and consumers.

With this information, the Southern University Ag Center began to discuss how a Farmers' Market could solve the lack of fresh produce in the parish.

Several of the limited resource farmers within the parish had several questions before buying into the idea. Some of the questions at hand were: Would they need a license to participate? Will the market impose a fee? Is there a market for my produce and what happens to produce that doesn't sell at the market?

To answer those questions, the Ag Center partnered with the St. Helena Healthy Community Coalition along with other community partners and received assistance from a healthy community grant to secure a location for the market and waive all fees for the farmers. This helped ease the minds of the growers, which made them eager to participate.

In 2017, three venders participated in the first farmers market and sold all of their produce within three hours of opening.

Since that time, the market has moved to a location in the heart of the town of Greensburg, La. This location is on a major route through town and provides greater visibility. The market has increased to 14 vendors including local farmers, bakers, and craftsmen and provides access to fresh local fruits, vegetables, meats, and homemade canned products. The market also helps to keep food dollars local and provides economic opportunities in a depressed economic community. The weekly customer base has also increased from 35 per week in 2017 to about 160 per week in 2020.

The increase in customers is due in part to the partnerships with the Southern University Ag Center, Louisiana State University AgCenter, St. Helena Cattleman's Association, the Central Louisiana Economic Development Alliance (CLEDA), and the recently launched You SNAP We Match program. Through the program, for each dollar spent on eligible food purchased using the SNAP/EBT card at the market customers receive free tokens to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables. The SNAP/Match is supported by a one-year grant from the USDA and allows SNAP recipients to increase their fresh fruits and vegetable buying power by making more nutritious foods affordable.

The SNAP Match program allows members of the community to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables at a lower cost compared to the grocery store," said Warner Hall, a vendor at the St. Helena Farmers Market. "It is an opportunity to expand and improve my business while interacting directly with the community."

The St. Helena Farmers Market operates every Friday from 8 a.m. - 1 p.m. at the corner of Highway 10 and Highway 43 in Greensburg, La. The market briefly closed due to concerns about COVID-19, but has since reopened with increased safety measures including a handwashing station and customer guidelines which help provide a safe shopping environment for the customers and vendors.

                                                                                                                     

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Small Business owners invited to SU Ag Center, SBA webinar on PPE & EIDL Programs

 

Event Flyer

Baton Rouge, La. –  The Southern University Ag Center has partnered with the U.S. Small Business Administration to host a webinar for small business owners to discuss the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Program.

 

The virtual event, which will be held at 6 p.m. on January 26, will provide participants with information on the PPP application process, participating lenders, requirements for the first and second draw applicants, and covered periods and loan terms.

 

Participants will also receive information on the EIDL Program’s application period, businesses who are eligible for an EIDL advance, information on how to request reconsideration for the program, as well as information on how to address credit issues.

 

To register for the webinar, visit http://bit.ly/2XJVTw8.

 

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Monday, January 4

Members of Congress Deliver Record Levels of Support for the 1890 Historically Black Land Grant Universities during the 116th Congress

Bipartisan HBCU Caucus helps champion Land-Grant Investments in Students and Research

Washington, D.C. – The 1890 Universities Foundation, representing the 19 Historically Black Land Grant Universities, extends its appreciation to the members of the 116th Congress for their continued advocacy on behalf of our 1890 Land Grant Universities. The FY 2021 Appropriations bill supported initiatives that will help our universities respond to many of the pressing challenges confronting the communities we serve. 

Of specific significance to the 1890 community are increases in funding for: Education Grants to 1890 Universities; 1890 Extension programs, Evans-Allen Research, Facilities Improvements, 1890 Centers of Excellence and Scholarship Programs. Also of note is the HBCU Capital Finance Debt Relief bill (HR 7380), which will provide $1.3 billion in Capital Finance Debt Relief for our universities. 

“We especially want to thank U.S. Representatives Alma Adams (D-NC), Sanford Bishop (D-GA), David Scott (D-GA), Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) and Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Doug Jones (DAL), Richard Shelby (R-AL), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) for their unwavering support and for leading the way to enable these increases in all of our 1890 Land Grant programs. In addition, we thank the Members of Congress who continue to recognize the significant impact of COVID-19 on our students, our research, our facilities and our cooperative extension programs, said Dr. Mort Neufville, President & CEO of the Foundation. 

“Our Universities will continue to face tremendous challenges and opportunities as we rebound from the pandemic and it is important that our recovery efforts also enable us to be better prepared for all future disasters. Again, on behalf of the 1890 community, we thank the Members of Congress for their support during these unprecedented and challenging times. We look forward to continuing our engagement with our elected leaders during the FY 2022 appropriations process,” concluded Dr. Neufville. 

This press release was written by Paul Brathwaite. For more information on the 1890 Universities Foundation visit: www.1890foundation.org. 

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