Rep. Jill Tokuda introduces bill to increase quality, quantity of locally grown food
Representative Jill Tokuda recently introduced the Grow Your Own Food Act to expand the Micro-Grants for Food Security Program. The program assists agricultural departments in eligible states and territories to increase the quantity and quality of locally grown food in food insecure communities through small-scale gardening, herding, and livestock operations in food insecure communities in areas of the United States that have significant levels of food insecurity and import a significant quantity of foods.
The Grow Your Own Food Act would amend the Agriculture Improvement Act to:
- Increase program funding from $10 million to $30 million.
- Increase the size of the awards by $5,000. Individual grants would be increased to $10,000 and organization grants to $20,000.
- Double the amount of funds states and territories can use to administer the grant to 6% from 3%.
- Exempt funds from income relating to federal programs (SNAP, housing subsidies) and clarifies that grants are not taxable income.
“At a time of rising hunger and food insecurity, it’s critical for the federal government to take additional measures to support local producers, farmers, and help those who put food on our tables,” said Tokuda. “This is especially important for rural and remote areas like Hawaiʻi, where food costs are higher and access is impacted by barge and air transport delays.”
“When I toured the Second Congressional District holding listening sessions about the Farm Bill, I heard from many communities that they want to be able to produce more to help take care of their own- they just need a little help. This bill will do just that, giving them the resources and capacity to increase the amount of locally grown food to feed Hawaiʻi’s people,” Tokuda added.
“The Micro-Grants for Food Security Program continues to be a game changer for Hawai‘i families who want to increase their food security,” said Sharon Hurd, chairperson of the Hawai‘i Board of Agriculture. “This grant program received an overwhelming response in the last round with more than 7,400 applicants and the projects that we were able to fund included the purchasing of seed, vertical gardens and planters, compost, refrigeration units, fencing and more. Congresswoman Tokuda’s proposed amendment to increase the appropriation will mean many more families will be able to grow their own food.”
“The Micro-Grants for Food Security Program is an innovative and highly acclaimed initiative that tackles food insecurity by providing funding to bolster local food production,” said Kūhiō Lewis, CEO of Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement. “Congresswoman Tokuda’s proposal to increase the program’s authorization to $30 million will be of significant benefit, particularly to the Native Hawaiian community. Research indicates that 27% of Native Hawaiians experience food insecurity, surpassing the state average of 22%. The Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement extends a heartfelt mahalo to Congresswoman Tokuda for her zealous advocacy on behalf of the most vulnerable members of our community.”
Climate Strong Islands Network said, “In order to be more climate resilient, US islands need locally grown agriculture programs to become less dependent on expensive imports, become more self-reliant, and ensure consistent access to food, especially during and after natural disasters. Because of their unique geography and populations, islands are the ideal place for small-scale agricultural investments and innovation. The Climate Strong Islands Network applauds Representatives Jill Tokuda (D-HI) and Stacey Plaskett (D-USVI) for their attention to the Micro-Grants for Food Security Program and supports increasing the authorization from $10 million to $30 million amongst other necessary improvements. Increased investments to the Micro-Grants for Food Security program support a transition to traditional food systems that increases island food security while simultaneously adding new sectors to island economies.”