Hawaii will play host to a center that aims to empower food producers and businesses in US states and territories.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has tapped Hawaii to be the focal point for strengthening the food systems of states and territories outside the lower 48.

Hawaii Good Food Alliance was selected to establish the Islands and Remote Areas USDA Regional Food Business Center, taking a $30 million slice of $400 million in federal funds allocated last year to energize local and regional food supply chains.

The Alliance is a collective of organizations working to increase food security, including farms and food hubs from every island in the archipelago, and will be charged with targeting historically underinvested communities. It will establish a regional food business center that will help food producers and businesses outside the contiguous U.S. access new markets and get better access to local, state and federal resources.

Hawaii, Guam, the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa, Alaska, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands all fall under the plan.

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The project is due to start towards the middle of the year and will be implemented over the following five years, according to HGFA Executive Director Harmonee Williams.

While the regions are widely dispersed and diverse, each state and territory shares somewhat similar knots in their food chains and systems, according to Saleh Azizi, director of Hawaii Food Hub Hui.

Those include infrastructure, climate change and shipping issues, which all underline their outsized reliance on imported foods.

“Our approach is to reinforce the missing link in local food systems using food hubs and networks like the Hawaiʻi Food Hub Hui … to increase local food production and advance local market opportunities for marginalized farmers,” Azizi said in a press release.

Hawaii Grown” is funded in part by grants from the Stupski Foundation, Ulupono Fund at the Hawaii Community Foundation and the Frost Family Foundation.

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