SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) — On Tuesday, Governor Pritzker announced that $14.4 million in grants would be available to underserved Illinois farmers, providing new opportunities to their communities.

The Illinois Department of Agriculture and the Illinois Department of Human Services worked with the United States Department of Agriculture to secure the funds. They formed a Local Food Purchasing Cooperative Agreement, allowing the State of Illinois to buy produce, proteins, fresh processed foods from underserved farmers at market value. The locally sourced food will go to schools, non-profits, communities in need, and the food bank system.

The goal of these programs is to simultaneously provide aid to farmers while also helping fight hunger in food-insecure communities. “Being hungry is a reality for far too many people in this country and our state. That is why Illinois is using creative resourcing and dedicated collaboration with stakeholders to fight food insecurity,” said Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton. “The Local Food Purchasing Cooperative Agreement will provide fresh, nutrient-dense food to those in need–and in the process uplift many who feed and grow in Illinois. By buying from underserved farmers, this agreement supports a community of growers who have been neglected for far too long. We know that Ag connects us all best when we work together to end hunger.”

In the program’s first year, the groups will meet to develop an implementation plan. The plan will focus on the needs of underserved farmers. It will also focus on communities that do not typically receive food. Doing so will help the groups to determine how culturally appropriate nutrition can be made available, as well as focusing on food insecure communities.

The program’s second year will focus on underserved farmers’ collection sites. These sites will be funded through the Notice of Funding Opportunity grants.

“I’m grateful to the USDA for their partnership with IDHS and IDOA in creating a creative, coordinated program like the Local Food Purchasing Cooperative Agreement,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “This program will support local farmers and those struggling with food insecurity, creating a system where Illinoisians in the public and private sectors can work with the federal government to help each other and benefit from our abundant natural resources.”

For more information on the Local Food Purchase Agreement, email agr.lfpa@illinois.gov