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UPDATE: Local farmers struggling after Tennessee misses deadline to apply for food bank funding, losing $7.4 million

From Local 3 News: UPDATE: In 2022, the USDA announced their new grant, Local Food Purchase Cooperative Agreement Program, or LFPA, that would hel

From Local 3 News: UPDATE: In 2022, the USDA announced their new grant, Local Food Purchase Cooperative Agreement Program, or LFPA, that would help impact local food systems.


Melissa Blevins, President and CEO of the Chattanooga Area Food Bank said they partnered with the state to apply for the grant and they were awarded $8.2 million. She said that would help farmers and producers to be able to expand, plant and harvest more food.


“For the 95 counties across our state and all of our farmers, growers, and producers, this money was a game changer because it didn’t come with a lot of ties, it was simply to help them build capacity,” said Blevins.


She said the food that was produced stayed in the local and rural communities. The funding was supposed to be multi-year, but she said there was miscommunication between the state and the USDA, which led to Tennessee missing the deadline to apply for the grant in 2023.


“We asked for an extension, Tennessee Department of Ag. was denied the extension to apply for the grant and that money is no longer available.”


The 2023 grant would have funded $7.2 million to the state. Blevins said it’s been devastating because many farmers were counting on that money to expand their production.


“I talked to one farmer this past week and he’s now having to sell his product at a loss. He was hoping that this program was going to continue on for the next year and was counting on it,” she explained.


Not only is the loss of funds impacting farmers across the state, but food banks as well. With the farmers not being able to harvest as much for local food pantries, Blevins said those pantries will have to turn to the Chattanooga Area Food Bank for more food.


“So, that does create a challenge for us at a time when we’re all paying more for groceries when we’ve ever paid. We’re going to provide more food this year in terms of groceries than we have in the 51 year history of this food bank.”


With that money no longer available, Blevins said they’re looking at other ways to supplement those funds.


“Right now, we’re asking our elected officials to consider a good faith support in this year’s Tennessee budget. It’s not going to be a solution to the $7 million shortfall that our farmers are experiencing right now, but it’s a good faith effort.”


Blevins said they are asking community to reach out to state leaders to help find a solution for the loss of this funding and a way to help Tennessee farmers.



PREVIOUS STORY: The state of Tennessee has lost more than $7 million for farmers and food banks, including money that goes to the Chattanooga Area Food Bank.


A new report shows that when it came time for the state to re-apply for the funding from the USDA, the state missed the deadline.


The USDA says it sent six separate funding notifications, but the state missed them all.


Tennessee applied for an extension but that was denied.


In October 2022, the Tennessee Department of Agriculture awarded the state $8.2 million to be distributed among food banks, farmers, and families.


The Local Food Purchase Cooperate Agreement Program allowed the state’s five Feeding America Food Banks to purchase produce, eggs and meat directly from Tennessee’s small farms.


The Chattanooga Area Food Bank received $800,000 from the grant that year.


The food bank responded to the missing funds this year saying in part:


“We are devastated. We want the state to acknowledge the error it made. We want to get this story out.”