The non-profit Heifer International is planning a project in Appalachia.
Heifer International is best known for allowing people to “buy” farm animals to send to people in developing countries. The idea is that when a family gets a sheep or a cow, the animal provides them with a source of income as well as food.
But now the organization is turning its eye toward the United States. Heifer was awarded two $125,000 planning grants, and intends to use one of them in Appalachia.
Heifer spokeswoman Kelly MacNeil says the project will focus on strengthening local food systems.
“Right now in the United States, our system is very efficient for processing cash crops like corn and soybeans,” she said. “But it’s not very good at providing that nutritious produce to people who really need it at a cost they can afford.”
MacNeil says the effort will work to both support local farmers and give them more ways to distribute their food.
“In some cases we might be talking about just farmer’s markets,” she said. “But in other cases we might be talking about bigger things. Ways to get that produce into grocery stores. Ways to get it to food pantries and to school districts.”
The project will initially begin in North Carolina and Tennessee, but MacNeil says the goal is to expand into other Appalachian counties. The entire project could take up to five years.