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ARC, EPA, and USDA Announce Four Winners of 2013 Appalachian Livable Communities Competition

December 2013


CORBIN, Kentucky, December 10, 2013—The Appalachian communities of Anniston, Alabama; Corbin, Kentucky; Pikeville, Tennessee; and Aberdeen, Mississippi, have been selected by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to receive technical assistance and implementation support through the 2013 Appalachian Livable Communities program. Funded at $250,000, the program focuses on developing local food systems as a means of revitalizing traditional downtowns and promoting economic diversification. A team of small-town-development experts will work with each community to develop achievable plans for the local production, distribution, promotion, and consumption of healthy foods.

The competition is the second round of assistance provided through the ARC-EPA-USDA Appalachian Livable Communities partnership, which helps Appalachian small towns and rural communities improve their livability by promoting economic development while safeguarding the local landscape. The partnership is the result of the White House Rural Council's ongoing effort to support multi-agency partnerships that promote economic development and job creation in rural America through targeted and coordinated federal assistance.

"ARC is pleased to partner with the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture in supporting this exciting program," said ARC Federal Co-Chair Earl F. Gohl. "The plans developed by the winners we are announcing today will support reinvigoration of downtowns and traditional neighborhoods in a variety of ways, including locating farmers markets or food hubs in 'Main Street' areas. They represent the kind of creative approaches to developing local food systems while protecting the environment that will benefit our Appalachian communities for many years to come."

"It's exciting that so many Appalachian communities have a renewed interest in revitalizing their downtowns by promoting local food systems," said EPA Agriculture Adviser to the Administrator Sarah Bittleman. "Focusing development in downtowns and existing neighborhoods is good for the natural environment and human health because it helps preserve rural lands and makes it easier for people to walk, bicycle, or drive shorter distances to their destinations."

"There is a growing momentum for the idea of integrating local food systems into rural economic revitalization efforts," said USDA Acting Under Secretary for Rural Development Doug O'Brien. "Local foods are a critical component of creating stronger, healthier communities. These projects, along with the Livable Communities partnership between EPA, USDA, and ARC, show how innovation and cooperation are absolutely essential to successful community development."

The four selected communities drew on the assistance of their local development districts or a local university or community college to prepare their Appalachian Livable Communities applications. The winning projects are described below:

  1. Anniston, Alabama, was selected for a project to develop a system of community and neighborhood gardens tied to neighborhood and downtown revitalization efforts. Once a thriving industrial and military community, Anniston has experienced economic hardships over the past 20 years with the closing of many iron foundries and manufacturing facilities. In addition to the community and neighborhood gardens, Anniston also plans to further develop its tree farm, expand the farmers market program, promote restaurants that buy locally, and incorporate an education component on healthy eating and food production to benefit local schools. This project will build on the city's efforts to create a strong economy based on a healthier environment for its residents.
  2. Corbin, Kentucky, was selected for a project to expand its seasonal outdoor market into a year‐round local food network hub in downtown Corbin. Whitley County Farmers Market is a small market of about 30 vendors in a mainly rural county that includes the cities of Williamsburg and Corbin. It has achieved steady growth over its seven years of operation. However, to expand, the farmers market must develop ways to market local foods not only to individuals and families during the summer, but also year-round to institutions and businesses in the county, such as hospitals, nursing homes, schools, state parks, and restaurants. This project will help meet the technical and organizational challenges associated with this expansion.
  3. Pikeville, Tennessee, was selected for projects to help create a vibrant local food economy. Steps to be taken include building a farmers market on vacant land in the heart of downtown Pikeville, and establishing a community kitchen in an old, renovated elementary school. The city and county mayors have also spoken with local artists about providing a diverse selection of products and have considered year-round vendors for the facilities. The grant will allow the city and county to develop and implement an action plan to pull all of these projects together.
  4. Aberdeen, Mississippi, was selected for a project to establish a farmers market and neighborhood nutrition education center in a revitalized and refurbished former railroad building. Among the major goals of the project is the development of food systems managed by the residents, giving them the opportunity to provide food for their families and supplement their income. The result will be a revitalized economic landscape in the area.