Bellevue is applying for a federal program that would add locally produced food to the list of ways it can revitalize Olde Towne.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s Local Foods, Local Places program connects communities to federal resources, expertise and assistance as they pursue efforts to reinvigorate neighborhoods using local food production.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture and Northern Border Regional Commission partner with the EPA to assist communities.
Fifteen such communities participated in 2019, and those communities hoped to add or expand community gardens, local food co-ops and farmers markets, while one community, Russellville, Ark., wanted a culinary incubator in an old fire station.
Bellevue’s application, which the City Council approved at its Sept. 17 meeting, will focus on Olde Towne.
Abby Highland, Bellevue’s Community Development Block Grant program coordinator, said she receives lots of alerts and information about grants and programs and received a notice about the local foods program because the city participated in the EPA’s Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities program in 2013.
Communities that apply for the 2020 program find out if they are semifinalists in December, Highland said, and after a round of phone interviews, if they are accepted in February.
If Bellevue is chosen it will host a community workshop in the spring or summer to identify potential opportunities, action steps and federal funding sources. Federal officials would assist the community at the workshop.
“This is definitely a community effort and we will be reaching out to organizations,” Highland said.
Local Foods is a good fit for Bellevue in two ways, Highland said. One is that the farmers market held weekly in Olde Towne brings local food production to the area.
“It’s a great opportunity and a starting location,” she said.
The other is that it fits into the city’s Olde Towne Vision Plan, which envisions mixed-use development and more pedestrian friendly streetscapes in the area.
Olde Towne is recognized by the state as a food desert, so if a grocery store occupies any new retail space it would address a significant need.
“(A grocery store) would be an answer to the food desert,” Highland said.
Local Foods and any federal funds that came with it would be coupled with other potential sources like tax increment financing or Community Development Block Grants, Highland said.