U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
Rural Partners Network
SERVICE TO THE CITIZEN AWARD WINNER
Deputy Undersecretary for Rural Development
Deputy State Director and Communications Lead
CHRISTINE SORENSENRPN Engagement Lead
RPN Engagement Specialist
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Rural Partners Network (RPN) team has revolutionized how federal agencies serve rural communities, leading to tangible improvements in economic and social well-being. The team's innovative approach and intergovernmental collaboration have resulted in customized support for diverse rural needs.
By engaging with local leaders and using data analysis, the team identified areas for program improvement and facilitated community engagement sessions to better understand local priorities. Through partnerships with federal agencies and existing local coalitions, RPN hires staff on the ground to provide tailored assistance and connect communities to resources and funding opportunities.
The benefits of RPN's achievements are evident in the $262 million in funding provided by USDA to support 68 projects across 10 states, Puerto Rico, and Alaska. These projects create jobs, improve healthcare access, develop clean energy solutions, and address critical infrastructure needs in historically underserved communities. Examples of the impact include converting poultry waste into renewable energy in North Carolina, improving healthcare access in Mississippi, and developing strategic plans for economic recovery in Arizona. These initiatives empower rural people and foster long-term prosperity while addressing pressing challenges.
The RPN team, led by Lee Jones, has demonstrated empathy, compassion, and a tireless commitment to reaching overlooked communities. Their work is already leaving a positive legacy, connecting rural people to resources and driving sustainable change for future generations. Their achievements set a new standard of excellence in public service.