Op-Ed: EPA urges rural P.R. communities to apply for aid
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is inviting rural communities in Puerto Rico to apply for planning assistance to develop strategies that help grow the economy and revitalize downtown neighborhoods. EPA is offering this assistance as part of Rural Advantage, a suite of federal economic development planning assistance programs for rural communities.
Communities may apply for assistance through the following programs:
Local Foods, Local Places (LFLP), which helps communities leverage local food enterprise to diversify their economy and renew their downtowns.
Cool & Connected, which helps communities use broadband service to create walkable, connected, economically successful neighborhoods.
Healthy Places for Healthy People, a new program that will help communities partner with health care facilities to catalyze downtown revitalization and to improve options for healthy living and economic opportunity.
Rural Advantage is part of the Obama Administration’s commitment to place-based strategies to help communities develop competitive advantages. In these places, federal experts work side by side with residents and local leaders to create customized solutions, bolstering coordination across agencies and improving interaction with community partners.
Local Food, Local Places (LFLP) is part of EPA’s Smart Growth Program, which covers a range of development and conservation strategies that help protect health and the environment while making communities more attractive, economically stronger, and more socially diverse. Through creative and local approaches the program encourages the smart growth of communities in ways that preserve critical environmental areas, protect water and air quality, and reuse already-developed land.
Healthy food and regular physical activity are keys to a healthy life, but for some, the easy access to affordable vegetables and fruits is limited. LFLP assists communities to better identify partners and coordinate the assistance needed to develop projects that not only create local jobs, but that improve the quality of life of children and families in rural communities.
From community gardens, where children can grow fresh, healthy foods while learning the basics of composting techniques to farmers developing their mini business incubator and transforming formerly empty lots into farmstands where they can sell the produce grown in their communities, LFLP works to make a difference.
Last year, 26 communities received assistance to develop projects that created relationships and a network of support. One of last year’s recipients (and partner,) for example, established a vegetable farming-based job training program and a series of community gardens that will help supply food for a new farmer’s market and café.
This year, EPA will select 30 or more communities for assistance through a competitive process. The selected communities will work with an EPA-supported team of experts, including through a two-day workshop, to develop strategies and action plans that enable them to realize their local revitalization goals. The team will include people with expertise in community development, and representatives of the federal agencies that sponsor the three programs so communities can build connections and take better advantage of federal programs and resources.
EPA’s Rural Advantage federal partners are the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, and Transportation, the Appalachian Regional Commission, the Delta Regional Authority and the Economic Development Administration.
Communities may apply by submitting letters of interest by November 6. For more information and to submit an application, see: https://www.epa.gov/smartgrowth.
EPA will also host a webinar for Local Food, Local Places on Oct. 20, from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. (EST) where those interested can seek more information. Please contact email@example.com if you have any questions.