Leahy Secures And Announces $11 Million To Support The Food Systems Research Center At UVM

. . . . Announcement Follows Roundtable Discussion On Hunger In Vermont

BURLINGTON, Vt. (FRIDAY, June 18, 2021) – Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) on Friday joined University of Vermont (UVM) leaders to announce federal funding for the Food Systems Research Center.  Leahy, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, secured $11 million in 2021 to support the Center’s work researching all facets of the regional food system, from production agriculture to food security. 

Leahy said:  “When the pandemic struck, Vermonters turned to their local farms for food security.  We’ve always relied on our local food systems in our state.  Farms are an economic driver for our rural communities and local food is a defining feature of Vermont.  We must continue to cultivate our food systems so our state can thrive and weather future emergencies. We must also ensure that it is equitable and accessible to all.  As chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee I will continue to support the Food Systems Research Center in promoting the viability of our farms and the accessibility of our locally produced food.  This will always be a priority for me on the Appropriations Committee as we make our annual budget decisions.” 

The Research Center is a collaboration between UVM and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS), with USDA scientists now being chosen to work on campus alongside University researchers.  Leahy helped to establish the UVM/ARS Food Systems Research Center with funding of $3 million in 2019.  The Center will partner with Vermont organizations and local food producers. 

UVM President Suresh Garimella said:  “We are grateful for Senator Leahy's steadfast support of UVM research and programs, particularly the partnership with ARS.  Importantly, it focuses on food systems and harnesses the distinct strengths of UVM's emphasis on sustainability, health and environment.  We are proud of our faculty who are innovating in the areas of regenerative agriculture and food security. Some of the research is also exploring how the health of our food systems and the health outcomes of our communities are interconnected.  UVM's partnership with ARS illustrates the positive and lasting impact that research and collaboration can have on our society."

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Dean Leslie Parise added:  “This is the first and only ARS research unit designed specifically to study diversified food systems and the smaller farms that contribute to those systems.  We are proud to be leading this work at UVM and believe there is much the rest of the world can learn from the successful small and medium sized farms that characterize Vermont agriculture.”

Acting USDA-ARS Administrator Simon Liu said:  “Every day, ARS researchers commit themselves to science, research and improving agricultural challenges.  The Food Systems Research Center is another example of how the agency routinely shows its excellence to agriculture, the nation and the U.S. food supply.”

The announcement followed a roundtable discussion on Friday facilitated by Dr. Meredith Niles, associate director of the Food Systems Research Center, that focused on Vermont’s transition away from pandemic-response mass feeding programs and toward an equitable and sustainable food access system.  UVM, Hunger Free Vermont, the Vermont Foodbank, the School Nutrition Association of Vermont and NOFA-VT participated in discussion.  Leahy, the longest serving member and former chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, which has jurisdiction over the majority of the federal anti-hunger programs, led the discussion.

More information on the work of the research center can be found on the University of Vermont website.  

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