CSU Extension awarded $250K grant to help food deserts

Miami Valley News
7-9 CSU Incubator Farm

This photo shows a display of lettuce variety grown and harvested by participants. (Photo: CSU)

WILBERFORCE, Ohio (WDTN) – Central State University Extension (CSUE) said Friday it has been awarded a three-year, $250,000 grant from the United States Department of Agriculture/National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA/NIFA) that will establish incubator farms and farmer’s markets in underserved Dayton-area neighborhoods.

“Many communities face barriers that prevent them from obtaining access to fresh fruits and vegetables within communities defined as food deserts,” said CSUE Agriculture/Natural Resources Program Leader Alcinda Folck, Ph.D. “Access to affordable and healthy foods is difficult because of limited transportation, low number of retail outlets selling fresh produce, and a high number of fast-food options. The end result leaves residents at greater risk for obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.”

The program will, said Dr. Folck, empower new farmers through training at incubator farms to establish their own farming operation, develop a curriculum for training farmers at incubator farms within underserved and underrepresented communities, improve community health through access and knowledge of incorporating fruits and vegetables into the diet and encourage minorities to choose agriculture as a career.

Central State University Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs F. Erik Brooks, Ph.D., said, “One of my beliefs about institutions of higher education is that we cannot only take resources from the communities that we are located in, but rather we should be a resource to empower the people who live within them. This is a perfect example of fulfilling this belief.”  According to Dr. Brooks, many urban communities and rural communities are located in food deserts and this is one of many ways Central State plans to strike a blow against this issue that plagues low socio-economic communities. “Community health and wellness are on Central State University’s radar. This federal grant funding will allow our Extension Services to make a positive impact on health disparities and the lack of food in this community,” said Dr. Brooks. 

The grant funds will be used to create and support a local food system by training local residents to become sustainable farmers through educational opportunities and incubator farms. The grant also connects these beginning farmers with local consumers through farmer’s markets and other marketing outlets.

Two incubator farms have been created, one in the Edgemont neighborhood in Dayton in partnership with Edgemont Solar Gardens, and another in the City of Trotwood, located on the grounds of the Trotwood Community and Cultural Arts Center.

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