CFP Activities: Results from Community Food Projects in 1999-2003

The last section discussed community food security principles and the extent to which they are integrated into the CFP Program. This section provides more specific information about the projects funded by CFP, such as the types of organizations that lead projects, community food activities they collectively provide, and methods by which they sustain activities after the grant ends. It reflects data from summaries of grantee reports from 42 CFP Projects funded between 1999 and 2003. Note that these summaries may not include all the significant activities and elements of each project, so the numbers reported below may be lower than their actual frequency in projects in some cases. Appendix A dis- cusses what the report summaries contain, how the analysis was done, and the strengths and weaknesses of the information offered by these summaries.


Community Food Projects funded between 1999 and 2003 represented a range of community food activities, including gardening involving urban youth, farmers’ markets, new farmer training, and Native American food systems. They were from 27 states and the District of Columbia. Grant funds varied from a low of $22,000 for three years to nearly the full amount of $250,000 over three years. (Note: the maximum request for CFP was increased to $300,000 in 2004). The types of organizations represented by grantees also varied widely (see Table 2 for details).

At least 15 projects served communities that were predominantly African-American, Latino, Native American, or immigrant and refugee groups from around the world. Many others served communities with a mixed ethnic and racial make up. Although report summaries do not contain specific information on the extent to which low-income residents were served by individual CFPs, we believe that this number is high. Projects are required to provide benefits to low-income communities, and most are situated in these communities.

Each Community Food Project involved an average of 3.8 partner organizations, with one reporting as many as nine partners. Partners included public agencies, including city departments, university faculty, and county cooperative extension agencies; for- profit firms; and other nonprofit organizations.


Community Food Projects studied addressed a range of community food security activities, including farm and garden production for self-consumption and sales, processing, and distribution. They also implemented related training, education, and community outreach, and on occasion, policy development and planning. Some focused intensively on a select set of activities to meet local needs or fill gaps in a particular sector, while others sought to develop broader networks by creating linkages and related policy infrastructure. The vast majority of projects included small-scale food production for local sales, and related outreach, education, and training.

Less common activities in study CFPs included those related to food processing, culinary arts skill development, traditional foods, development of distribution logistics coordinating multiple producers and sales outlets, and brokering linkages between farms and institutions such as schools. Some of these activities are important for scaling up local food systems from limited production for direct sales, and need greater attention to resources such as warehouses and refrigeration; transportation networks and infrastructure; broader collaborations, including between private and public entities; and longer-term planning and implementation. Less common in CFPs studied were activities related to food assessments and policy development. These activities have seen more sup- port in CFPs funded after 2003.

Forty-three percent of combined activities in projects included some form of organized knowledge building (this excludes community assessments and food policy councils, so the total including those activities would be much higher). These include raising awareness of community members about local food issues, organizing educational events such as field trips, developing school and college curricula, training in activities such as food production or cooking, and providing technical assistance on specialized topics such as financial management for new farmers. See Table 3 for details on food sector activities implemented by Community Food Projects studied.

The distribution of activity types documents how CFP Program objectives are translated in practice. Although basic activities in food production and sales to meet food needs of low-income populations are significant CFP activities and a key CFP Program priority, those in skills training and raising public awareness also are important to building community capacity and comprehensive, long-term solutions. Hence most CFPs balance program objectives through a combination of production, direct marketing, and related educational strategies.


In addition to involving a variety of food system sectors, such as production, processing, and distribution, Community Food Projects also contribute to a variety of community sectors such as health, economy, and human services. This is true also of the mainstream industrial food system. It provides positive outcomes such jobs and an abundance of affordable food, as well as negative outcomes such as obesity, water pollution, and lower access to healthy food in low-income areas. The community food security approach strives to reduce these negative outcomes and to generate multiple, positive outcomes associated with community sectors such as health, economy, land use, culture, and the environment.

CFPs studied contributed to community health/nutrition (via food marketing or food assistance activities) in at least 56 percent of activities-by far the most significant form of community linkage. Because entrepreneurial and market-based strategies are emphasized in the program, these are noted under the category of Market-based Activities represent 50 percent of all activities. CFPs also contributed to other community sectors such as the local culture and the natural environment, although at much lower levels in the cases studied. This distribution of activities across different community sectors reflects the CFP Program’s embrace of multiple approaches to meet the food needs of low-income populations. These include building community capacity; providing comprehensive and long-term solutions to local food, agricul- ture, and nutrition problems; and developing related physical infrastructure.

It must be noted that grantee report summaries tended not to identify benefits in categories unspecified by the CFP RFA. Therefore, it is highly likely that this study undercounts links in community sec- tors other than those emphasized by the CFP Program-e.g., meeting local food needs while promoting entrepreneurial food system solutions. For example, a community garden member may be able eat more healthfully and also supplement her income through participation in the CFP. Additionally, she may also be able to broaden her knowledge about certain ethnic foods, socialize with neighbors, and get significant recreation benefits. Such additional benefits are typically not included in grantee reports, but nonetheless represent significant project impacts.
As mentioned in Section 2, the scale of individual CFP activities often is relatively small and direct impacts are typically limited to the area in which funded projects are located. Taken together, however, these activities paint a picture of closer and denser links between producers and consumers in these localities, increased awareness of local food systems, and greater integration of food systems into diverse aspects of community life.

In short, CFPs deliver community food security primarily through the impacts of specific activities to increase access to healthy and culturally appropriate food by low-income populations and to support local producers who enable this access. However, the CFP Program faces limits in terms of community food security issues addressed in projects, characteristics of applicants and grantees, and the ways in which CFPs can deliver long-term food security. Many of these limits are a result of the broader economic and policy structures that shape the context of CFP work.