NORTH DAKOTA (KXNET) — The North Dakota Department of Commerce is preparing to release a new grant program — one focused on providing the communities of the Peace Garden State with fresh, locally-grown food.

According to a news release, the Rural Food Sustainability Grant Program is dedicated to boosting food access, sustainability, and economic development in rural communities.

The funds from this effort will also be used to support sustainable grocery services, food access, and the growth of rural co-ops that help aggregate, store, and distribute food in those rural areas.

“Commerce is committed to enhancing wealth and quality of life in North Dakota,” stated Community Development Liaison for Commerce Emma Cook in a press release. “The program aims to strengthen local food systems, improve grocery supply quality, encourage local partnerships, support innovative solutions, foster rural community development, and promote economic collaboration.”

The study — and likewise, the grant portion — consists of two components. The first of which focuses on feasibility studies for food accessibility and expansion projects, which will award grants up to a value of $20,000.

Applications for this component open on Friday, September 8, and close on Friday, October 13. Awards will be announced on Tuesday, October 24.

The program will focus on communities with a population of less than 10,000. Regular maintenance funding is excluded, and the projects reviewed must be able to enhance food access with a sustainable plan.

Applicants who are eligible to apply include nonprofits, local entities, economic development organizations, and tribal entities. Fund-matching programs are encouraged, but not mandatory.

The second component of the program focuses on awarding grants for the implementation of sustainable food access projects, with a maximum value of $300,000 that can be awarded. Applications for this grant will open in early 2024.

For more details regarding the Rural Food Grant and how to apply, visit this page on the Department of Commerce’s website.