Eating Local: Community Food Projects
June 2008 update: The recently passed 2008 farm bill allocated $5 million in mandatory funding to Community Food Projects! It's a compromise between the $0 the House wanted to give it and the $10 million allocated in the Senate's version of the bill.
Nearly two-thirds of the Tohono O'odham tribe lives in poverty and almost that many are unemployed. At the start of the 21st century, 47% of O'odham households lacked telephones and 29% lacked plumbing. However, a federal grant enabled the Tohono O'odham Community Action group to redevelop traditional methods of farming, gardening, and gathering food in the Sonoran desert. These traditional foods, in addition to growing well in the harsh desert climate, also reduce risk of diabetes.
Another federal grant helped the Patchwork Family Farms cooperative in Missouri expand their operation and increase sales. Patchwork was founded by small hog farmers who struggled with hog prices below the cost of production and poor access to markets. The farmers increased their profitability by processing, marketing, and selling pork products themselves at a fair price (instead of selling whole hogs as they did before). They hold themselves to high quality standards (no continuous use of antibiotics, no growth hormones, and no complete confinement) and sell their products locally and to low-income areas.
The grants described above are part of the Community Food Projects (CFP) program. CFP offers competitive grants to programs designed to bring food security to low income communities. At its start in 1996, CFP received $2.5 million in mandatory funding, which was increased to $5 million in 2003. When Congress allocates "mandatory" annual funding, then advocates of CFP do not need to fight for funding each year. The opposite is "discretionary" funding, which means that Congress can allocate money to CFP but technically has not given the program any money yet.
According to the Foodlinks America newsletter published by California Emergency Foodlink, in 2007, $4.8 million in grants were announced to fund projects to:
- Provide entrepreneurial training to Somali refugees in a rural Wisconsin community to help them start food-related businesses
- Increase the amount of locally-produced fresh food being used in school meal progams in Buffalo, NY
- Pilot moveable farmers' markets to increase access to healthy foods in low-income neighborhoods in New Orleans, which is still recovering from Hurricane Katrina
- Establish a community supported agriculture (CSA) program on a decommissioned naval base in California.
- Conduct a comprehensive needs assessment of food and agriculture concerns in a county in Wyoming
- Initiate school gardens in a small town in Alaska.
More informationCommunity Food Projects Case Studies (PDF) (article)
Op Ed: Community food grants need funds (article)
Op Ed: Congress must not forget Urban America in 2007 Farm Bill (article)
Op Ed: Making use of local produce (article)
Op Ed: Proposed Farm Bill falls short on food security - Sep 20, 2007 (article)
Op Ed: Protecting small-scale food projects from the ground up - Oct 15, 2007 (article)
Op Ed: Support Colorado Community Food Projects (article) To rebuild healthy local food systems, we need full funding in current farm bill
U.S. Gov't Announced Recipients of $4.8m in CFP Grants (news piece)
USDA: Community Food Projects (web site)