By: Carly Truett, Writer / Follow South Jersey Public Health Intern
CAMDEN, N.J. — The Camden Urban Agriculture Collaborative (CUAC) will receive a $293,411 federal grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to promote access to healthy food and fight food insecurity in the city of Camden.
The CUAC was one of only 23 organizations in the nation out of 578 applicants to receive the USDA’s Urban Agriculture and Innovative Award (UAIP). The UAIP was established as part of the 2018 Farm Bill, and its intention is to support urban agriculture programs and production activities.
In addition to the grant from the UAIP, CUAC will also receive a $33,000 match from Parkside Business and Community in Partnership (PBCIP), one of the CUAC’s member groups. This funding will be used for the CUAC Leadership Pipeline Project for the next 2 years.
“These grants will enable CUAC to restore vacant and underutilized land for urban gardening, and collaborate with our urban agriculture and health-centric partners on health education, food demonstrations, and urban agriculture apprenticeship programs,” PBCIP executive director Bridget Phifer said in a press release.
The CUAC, formed in late 2018, is a collective of nonprofits, community gardeners, and other organizations with the common goal to improve sustainable urban agriculture and food insecurity in Camden. Its member organizations include PBCIP, Camden City Garden Club, VietLead, the Center for Environmental Transformation, Camden Lutheran Housing Inc., the Neighborhood Center, Cooper Lanning Civic Association, Powercorps Camden, Virtua Health, Free Haven Farms, and community gardeners.
The CUAC has already begun working toward its mission by establishing a tool library to provide necessary equipment to community gardens, creating a survey of Camden’s urban farmers and gardeners, and developing a shared marketing system. One initiative, Roots to Prevention, received $500,000 from the BUILD Health Challenge award and is working to increase the capability to grow and sell local produce.
More than one-third of Camden’s residents live in poverty. Across the county, there are more than 60,000 food-insecure individuals, and the CUAC hopes to use funding to improve the food system and provide residents the opportunity to be part of addressing these issues in their community.
“Our ultimate goal is building and encouraging resident leadership of urban agriculture in Camden,” Lew Bivona, a CUAC founder, said in a release. “Instead of seeing positive changes happen to Camden, we as collaborators can be a part of a movement that happens with and because of Camden.”
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This article was produced by a Follow South Jersey news intern thanks to a grant provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation through the New Jersey Health Initiatives program to create hyper-local news to meet the informational and health needs of the City of Bridgeton, N.J.