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The Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP) and the Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI-USA) Two of North Carolina’s largest farmer and local food advocacy organizations have teamed up for a new initiative. The project, called Connect2Direct, will improve access to local food and increase farmers market sales across the state.

As we’ve reported previously local food sales have grown steadily across the state. However, North Carolina also has one of the highest percentage of citizens experiencing food shortages, with over a quarter of our children regularly going to bed hungry. Connect2Direct seeks to ensure that everyone in North Carolina, including low-income communities, can access healthy, local food available at farmers market. In doing so, the project will also help farmers market diversify their customers base, creating more direct sales opportunities for farmers.

From the press release:
Connect2Direct aims to dramatically increase farm to consumer direct sales and the usage of EBT/SNAP at farmers markets in NC – by over 100% within two years – by providing training and technical assistance to markets and market vendors, creating effective marketing and outreach campaigns, facilitating the transactional process for EBT/SNAP, and building statewide capacity and efficiency to sustainably ensure that all North Carolinians have access to fresh foods grown by local farmers. A Farmers Market and Direct Sales Conference is planned for November 2015.

The project includes a number of different initiatives that will support and educate farmers and market managers about how to accept EBT/SNAP benefits at markets and CSAs, and how to market their programs to low-income communities. It will also provide funds for additional nutritional incentive programs, as well as educational opportunities to help get the next generation of North Carolinians excited about healthy, local food.