LITTLE ROCK, Ark, -

A federal initiative that aims to help farmers in impoverished areas obtain loans and other assistance has been expanded into 23 more counties in Arkansas.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture developed the StrikeForce Initiative in 2010 to assist farmers in poor areas. The initiative began as a pilot program in 25 Arkansas counties and in counties in Georgia and Mississippi.

The goal of StrikeForce is to help farmers, food producers and other businesses get access to money for projects such as new wells, greenhouses, community gardens, kitchen space, and summer meals for low-income school children

Participating farmers in eastern Arkansas are producing foods for school-lunch programs, while farmers in south Arkansas are growing Southern peas to be sold in produce sections in Wal-Mart stores.