Some recommendations relate to the CFP Program specifically, while others may apply to community food advocates and/or other funders of community food work. Some recommendations are aimed at regional and national resource networks that provide training, technical assistance, or education to local groups. Some emerge directly and explicitly from project experiences on the ground; others are more implicitly so, and should be viewed as suggestions requiring further dialogue and exploration.
Admittedly, the timing of these recommendations may be problematic as the future of the CFP Program is uncertain at the time this report goes to press. Nonetheless, because these recommendations emerge from an analysis of the program and a number of CFP Projects, they are offered in the hope that they can help advance CFP objectives regardless of the exact future shape of the program. Of course, if the program is eliminated, then the specific CFP recommendations may be rendered moot.
More Community Food Projects need to be funded.
This study shows that Community Food Projects provide many benefits to local food systems and in a variety of community sectors. However, only a few projects can be funded each year. Only 20 percent of the applications received in 2006 were funded, a rate that is typical for the program’s tenure as a whole. As a reviewer over multiple years, the author’s experience (along with many other reviewers) is that a greater number of applications deserve
funding. Many needy urban and rural communities continue to remain unserved by this program. Increasing the total budget of the CFP Program would ensure that a greater number of deserving applications get funded.
USDA Programs with comparable objectives, such as the Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program and Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program, are funded at much higher levels than the CFP Program, receiving nearly $20 million and $15 respectively for fiscal 2007. Community food advocates have requested that the CFP Program be funded at $30 million annually in the 2007 Farm Bill, a significant enhancement over the current annual budget of $5 million.
More Community Food Projects need planning support.
Community food security initiatives are engaged with long-terms systems change, and may need longer-term support (five years or more) and therefore increased funding to build solid partnerships, deepen community involvement, and develop and implement programs that can strengthen outcomes through learning over multiple years. CFP administrators may wish to explore a two-tier funding category similar to that used by many foundations. In the first tier, planning grants could be awarded to more organizations in the earlier stages of community food work, with implementation grants to selected qualified organizations made in the second tier. Given the inherent value of community consultation processes and networks that CFP planning can help build, organizations that receive a first tier of fund- ing but not the second may still come out ahead in building their capacity. Alternatively, promising applications by organizations that may have fallen short of CFP Program requirements could be award- ed a smaller grant to strengthen a particular aspect of their proposal for another application the following year.
Community Food Projects need to be supported in areas that haven’t yet been funded.
The CFP Program has funded communities in almost every state and US territory. The majority of projects involve producing food through gardens and small farms, and making these foods available to local residents, through farm and garden stands, farmers’ markets, school cafeterias, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) schemes, food assistance programs, and direct distribution. These projects are important sources of fresh and healthy food in urban and rural areas, and build community awareness and capacity in food security issues. However, some areas have been much more active in this work and have received many more CFP grants than others. These “hotbeds” of community food activities also are able to attract funding from foundations and other sources that support similar activities. Hence, we believe that the CFP Program should focus on gaining geographic spread in addition to funding deserving innovations from already funded communities.
More communities should receive funding from this program, especially low-income ones that have not previously received support. Exactly how successful applications from these areas may be generated will need further exploration. One solution might be to sponsor “CFP Fellows” or mentors from within particular regions who can help qualified local organizations and partners assemble effective applications. Fellows may be trained by national organizations such as the Community Food Security Coalition, American Community Gardening Association, or World Hunger Year and provided a modest stipend for their mentoring activities. Another approach may be to use regional organizations like Growing Power or the Sustainable Agriculture Working Groups to identify and support local planning and projects that may qualify for CFP funding later.
Community Food Projects may need greater connection to other federal programs that meet low-income needs, especially in relation to nutrition and obesity prevention.
Many CFPs offer sources of fresh and healthy food in urban and rural areas, and build community awareness and capacity in food security issues. Combining CFP benefits with other federal pro- grams that seek to improve access to healthy and affordable food by low-income households may foster synergies among various government programs and multiply benefits to consumers and producers. Some CFPs already bring various government pro- grams together, by for example, developing EBT terminals at farmers’ markets to enable farmers to redeem nutrition program benefits from low-income households. Alternatively, food stamp education funds may help bring a significant nutrition education component into production and direct market- ing of fruits and vegetables in low-income neighbor- hoods. CFP program staff and advocates may need to work together to explore how CFP funds could offer synergies by combining with other USDA and non-USDA federal programs that serve low-income populations.
Other community services to meet the food and other needs of low-income populations should be encouraged to integrate CFS principles.
Community Food Projects deliver many benefits in a variety of sectors, such as the economy, social services, health, recreation, etc. National and regional organizations that provide support to local groups may be able to show how local organizations that meet the food and other needs of low-income populations might benefit from integrating community food security principles into their work. For example, a recent report documents how food banks and other anti-hunger organizations integrate CFS principles into their activities to provide multiple benefits for their constituents (Fisher, 2005). Other similar efforts may address how CFS principles might inform community-based nutrition and health services, affordable housing development projects, job creation and economic development activities, etc.