Recommendations for Food Security Programs P.2

(Cont. from Part One)

More CFS principles may need to be integrated into projects. This study shows that CFPs deliver many community food security objectives, such as meeting the food needs of low-income populations, supporting small-scale producers, contributing to local economies, and building local food systems by reducing the distance between producers and consumers. However, it also shows that elements of other CFS objectives- espe- cially those related to social justice and ecological sustainability-receive less systematic support in the CFP Program. (See Table 2 for this analysis.) CFP project organizers and other CFS advocates may want to explore whether it is important to integrate some of these objectives more fully into their work and how to do that.

As a key activity of CFPs, education needs more support. The vast majority CFP projects include diverse forms of knowledge-building and education, including raising public awareness on community food issues, skills development, and technical assistance on specific topics related to production, sales, or processing. Projects often dedicate much time and effort to creating basic educational and training resources that may already exist in a similar form that is easily accessible through web-based sources. In many cases, educational products, such as training manuals, audio-visual materials, and conference presenta- tions are used as revenue sources and not freely avail- able to the public. Such educational activities could be enhanced by the CFP Program and other related funders, including through:

• A web-based and readily accessible library of CFP-specific educational materials on food sys tems topics, and how-to manuals on topics such as involving youth in community food production, preparing for markets, planning a community harvest festival, etc., so that projects can use existing compilations. This library could expand on the current offerings by the Community Food Security Coalition, WHY’s Food Security Learning Center, and others.
• Greater support of peer-to-peer education through the institution of learning communities and networks to share experiences, best practices, and lessons learned on specific approaches such as farm to school or food policy councils, and more general concerns such as how to sustain project activities beyond the grant period.
• Encouraging greater involvement by Cooperative Extension in particular aspects of training and technical assistance around community food security.

“Scaling-up” activities need to be supported. Besides local food production and distribution activities supported by CFP, more attention is needed to “scaling up” activities for greater impact and sustainability, and to developing integrated approaches to local and regional food system development. These activities may require higher levels of funding, longer timelines, and specialized expertise to implement due to the more complex nature of physical and organi- zational infrastructure needed in coordinating distri- bution between larger numbers of producers and market outlets over relatively longer distances. However, given the great need for basic community food activities, we recommend that the CFP pro- gram continue to prioritize these over projects with scaling up activities, if significant increases in fund- ing are not obtained.

Building Community Food Security

More support for community readiness is needed. Community and organizational readiness are important factors in successful CFP application and implementation. Readiness has components of shared knowledge, community support and engagement, existing networks, and experience in community food work. Some limited resource organizations may find it especially difficult to implement important pre-proposal planning activities such as conducting assessments, organizing partnerships, engaging com- munity members in planning, and securing needed infrastructure. More funding may be needed to help applicants plan projects and develop effective applications, especially for community-based organiza- tions or coalitions and in geographic regions that have never received CFP funding. Such planning assistance may include travel scholarships to CFSC conferences or skills trainings for groups that are well placed to translate increased readiness into successful CFP applications and projects. It also may include arrangements for one-on-one consultations tailored to the group’s needs and community food ideas.

Community processes could benefit from more training and technical assistance.

Community participation and multi-sectoral collabo- rations also are crucial to successful Community Food Project implementation and the creation of long-term change. However, organizations may have limited skills in community organizing, facilitating participation, and leading processes representing multiple interests and organizational cultures. More resources may need to be directed to providing education, training, and technical assistance to groups on these processes. Similar needs in evaluation were identified in the past and the CFSC has created an effective T&TA Program to support grantees with developing program evaluations. A similar initiative may be needed for organizing communities around food and facilitating collaborative processes that engage community residents effectively. There may exist regional and national groups that already pro- vide such support to communities; such groups may need to be identified and supported.

More rigorous research is needed on innovative community food strategies.

This study surfaced a concern that prospective CFP applicants may feel pressure to adopt untested or inadequately tested innovations related to community food linkages. Because of competition for scarce funding, community-based organizations that originate innovative strategies may feel the need to pres- ent only positive narratives of these strategies. Organizations wishing to replicate them may there- fore have little accurate information about the strate- gies’ strengths and weaknesses. More research is therefore needed that presents rigorous, accurate, and fair assessments of what works and what does not and why, especially in newer approaches to commu- nity food security. Universities and nonprofit research institutes may offer the requisite skills, resources, and distance from grassroots pressures to conduct such research.