WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWTI) — The United Way of Northern New York has received funding to combat hunger in the North Country.

The United States Department of Agriculture has awarded the United Way a $35,000 grant to focus on fighting food insecurity in the North Country.

“We are honored the USDA awarded us with the Community Food Projects grant,” United Way of Northern New York CEO Jamie Cox said in a press release. “We are eager to be the leader addressing food insecurity and hunger from a systems level. For generations, we’ve had incredibly compassionate people doing wonderful things in every town and village. Now we’re going change the system to truly give affordable access to everyone.”

According to the UWNNY, the organization has hired Courteney Stepanek as its Food Policy Council Coordinator. Stepanek is a graduate from St. Lawrence University, has held positions at the Children’s Home of Jefferson County and will help create a Food Policy Council among organizations in the region.

The United Way stated that the Food Policy Council specifically would aim to increase the self-reliance of the community by providing for the needs of North Country residents. The Council would prioritize the needs of low-income individuals and develop a planning project that promotes “comprehensive responses” to local food access, farm and nutrition issues.

To implement these initiatives, the United Way of Northern New York has also partnered with the Cornell Cooperative Extension.

Organizations that will serve of the Food Policy Council Leadership will include the Jefferson County Farm Bureau, Riverside Farm, Morgia’s Pasta, Luff Farms, Jefferson County Economic Development, the Small Business Development Center, Hill & Markes, BOCES, the Watertown Urban Mission, the Cape Vincent Food Pantry, Jefferson Community College, Jefferson County Planning, and the Tug Hill Commission. Additional organizations will join the Council to represent their industry.

The grant from the United States Department of Agriculture will remain active through August 2022.