In a meeting Wednesday, the Madison Food Policy Council accepted a report analyzing the Madison Healthy Retail Access Program and approved $50,000 in State Economic Engagement Development Grants, allowing for 11 new projects to receive funding in 2018.

According to the City of Madison Mayor’s Office, the SEED Grants are designed to bring healthier food options to the people of Madison through new programs and projects emerging from the community. Each applicant may receive up to $10,000, depending on size and category of each project.

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Madison’s Food Policy Coordinator George Reistad highlighted this increase in participants and the variation among approved projects, including pantry, garden, educational and entrepreneurial projects.

“It was a much more competitive year in 2018 than it was in 2017,” Reistad said. “I think it was a good diversity in projects.”

While “nine or 10” applicants were approved out of a pool of 15 last year, this number jumped to 23 contenders for 11 spots recommended to receive funding in 2018, Reistad said.

The council made these recommendations following a previous Madison Food Policy Council Meeting where members narrowed the number of SEED Grant finalists, who later presented their projects.

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While some questions arose about applicant Robert Pierce, whose project was located outside of District 14, Reistad said the entrepreneurship of his nonprofit would occur in Madison because he manages the South Madison Farmers Market.

“This is the programmatic arm of what they do,” Reistad said. “The program will use the South Madison Farmers market to retail the product that comes from the students who grow it.”  

Council members Lindsey Day Farnsworth and Ben Van Pelt, Director of Government Relations at the American Heart Association, later presented a report on the Madison Healthy Retail Access Program for approval. Van Pelt highlighted the contents of the assessment, including his organization’s support for the report and its implications for Madison.

The analysis, which The Food Trust’s Director Brian Lang wrote and researched, suggested additional staffing, benchmark goals for the future and an improved application process could help better the program currently in place in Madison.

“It’s a really important policy for our organization across the country,” Van Pelt said. “I have multiple colleagues working on it from coast to coast and we’re happy to dive into it at a local level here in Madison.”