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Tribal advocates keep up legal pressure for fair political maps; 12-member jury sworn in for Trump's historic criminal trial; the importance of healthcare decision planning; and a debt dilemma: poll shows how many people wrestle with college costs.

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Civil rights activists say a court ruling could end the right to protest in three southern states, a federal judge lets January 6th lawsuits proceed against former President Trump, and police arrest dozens at a Columbia University Gaza protest.

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Rural Wyoming needs more vocational teachers to sustain its workforce pipeline, Ohio environmental advocates fear harm from a proposal to open 40-thousand forest acres to fracking and rural communities build bike trail systems to promote nature, boost the economy.

Farm innovations in MN seen as tool in ending racial hunger divide

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Thursday, December 21, 2023   

Among Black Minnesotans, some 25% are food insecure.

An emerging initiative aims to connect BIPOC communities with healthier and culturally appropriate foods, and it starts by elevating the people growing those items. Unemployment remains low in the U.S., but hunger relief networks report record demand.

Marcus Carpenter founded Minnesota's Route 1 organization and said struggles run deep in communities of color. His team focuses on providing technical assistance to Black, brown and Indigenous farmers who can grow more food and distribute it to these populations.

A new grant allows Route 1 to try out different approaches, such as partnering with a company on "freight farms."

"They refurbish old shipping containers; they totally gut these shipping containers out," Carpenter explained. "They implement hydroponic technology that allows urban farmers and other farmers who don't have access to land outside to be able to grow fresh produce inside these shipping containers."

And it is not just the typical fresh produce most Americans are accustomed to. Carpenter pointed out emerging farmers can grow items closely aligned with their cultural heritage. He acknowledged addressing gaps within the nation's food system can be very complex, but added local solutions go a long way in creating efficiencies in the pursuit of equality.

Route 1 is boosting access through a $250,000 grant from the American Family Insurance Institute for Corporate and Social Impact.

Nyra Jordan, social impact investment director for the institute, said the dynamic seen in Minnesota is being felt elsewhere.

"Independent farmers across the country have a hard time accessing funding and distribution channels to sell their crops," Jordan emphasized. "That's especially true for the small but growing number of Black, brown and Indigenous farmers."

Only about 1% of Minnesota's farmers are BIPOC. Jordan stressed the hope is Route 1's efforts can inspire similar action in other states. Separately, Minnesota has established a new Emerging Farmers Office, geared toward creating more pathways for historically disadvantaged producers.


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