Augusta Business Daily

Thu, September 28, 2023

$200,000 grant in place to study food access issues

A local nonprofit that strives to improve community access to fresh foods has received a $200,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Access Problems and Solutions

Founded in 2008, Augusta Locally Grown partners with CSRA farmers to provide fresh, affordable meats, fruits, vegetables, and other products to local residents, many of whom live in food deserts and lack transportation to travel to grocery stores. “In some instances, our farmers are people’s only access to fresh food,” says Rebecca van Loenen, executive director of Augusta Locally Grown. “We have to be the stopgap in those instances.” To help address these access problems, the organization has established in-person farmers markets at the Kroc Center and on Laney Walker Boulevard, as well as an online market. ALG also has a Vegetable Prescription Program designed to provide fresh produce to local residents in under-served communities, such as Harrisburg, and recently began home delivery services.

Augusta Locally Grown – a nonprofit, seeks to improve community access to fresh foods in the CSRA. (Photo taken from

According to van Loenen, the grant funds will be used to pay for a comprehensive regional study of food systems and community access to fresh foods. The study will be conducted by Matson Consulting – an agribusiness firm based in Aiken. “We’ll have regional data to see how we can better serve the CSRA,” she states. Next summer, the nonprofit plans to move into the HUB – a 33,000-square-foot facility, which ALG will share with other community organizations, under construction at the former site of Kroger on 15th Street. In the new location, van Loenen explains they will be able to expand many of their services, including the Vegetable Prescription Program.

In addition to the USDA grant, she says Augusta Locally Grown and other nonprofits have received funding from a $10 million donation by the Augusta National Golf Club, AT&T, Bank of America, and IBM. That funding has been used to cover the cost of building the HUB.

Food Shortages

In 2020, many grocery stores nationwide struggled to keep their shelves stocked with essential items, including meat, eggs, and bread, due to the pandemic. “We saw the sustainable agriculture movement shine as sales quintupled, while the grocery store shelves remained bare for 2020,” she says. “We are constantly seeing the small business farmer fill in the gaps for fresh food access.” Inflation and supply-chain issues have made it difficult for grocery stores to keep up with consumer demand for food and have resulted in higher prices on many grocery items. Those issues have also increased the demand for ALG’s services. Loretta Adderson, owner of Adderson’s Fresh Produce in Keysville, has witnessed this heightened demand firsthand. “Normally, there is a decline in our online market and also our other markets, but this year, it has picked up,” says Adderson. She states her farm has very little produce left to sell for the rest of the year.

Food shortages caused by COVID-19 and supply-chain issues have plagued grocery stores for nearly two years. (Photo taken from


With rising prices at grocery stores, many families have turned to buying fresh food items from local producers at farmers markets. “We’re still seeing sales up from where they were in 2019,” van Loenen states. “We’re seeing those deliveries as they continue to rise.” She explains local items are often cheaper than those sold in grocery stores, and that’s particularly true for meat. Augusta Locally Grown has other ways to lower food costs. “At our in-person markets, we double SNAP and EBT benefits (food stamps), so that definitely makes it more affordable,” adds van Loenen.

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