USDA announces more than $8.6 million for community food projects

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced more than $8.6 million in available funding to assist low-income individuals and communities in developing local and self-reliant food systems. This funding is available through NIFA’s Community Food Projects Competitive Grant Program, authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill.
“This program is important because it reaches beyond short-term food relief,” said NIFA Director Sonny Ramaswamy. “It integrates economic, social, and environmental impacts to form comprehensive solutions to problems across all food system levels.”
The primary goals of the Community Food Projects Competitive Grant Program are to meet the food needs of low-income individuals, increase the self-reliance of communities in providing for their food needs, promote comprehensive responses to local food access, farm, and nutrition issues, and meet specific state, local or neighborhood food and agricultural needs. Grants aim to bring together stakeholders from the distinct parts of the food system and foster understanding of national food security trends and how they might improve local food systems.
All grants require a dollar-for-dollar match in resources. They are intended to support the development of projects with a one-time installment of federal assistance to establish and carry out self-sustaining, multipurpose community food projects. Community Food Projects can be funded up to $400,000 over the course of 48 months. Planning Projects may be funded up to $35,000 for the total project period, which is one year.
Eligible applicants include public food program service providers, tribal organizations, and private nonprofit entities, including gleaners. The following requirements must be met:
  1. Have experience in the area of community food work, job training and business development activities for food-related activities in low-income communities, or efforts to reduce food insecurity in the community;
  2. Demonstrate competency to implement a project, provide fiscal accountability, collect data, and prepare reports and other necessary documentation;
  3. Demonstrate a willingness to share information with researchers, evaluators, practitioners, and other interested parties, including a plan for dissemination of results;
  4. Collaborate with one or more local partner organizations to achieve at least one hunger-free community’s goal.
The deadline for applications is Monday, December 4, 2017. See the request for applications for details.
Since 1996, Community Food Projects have awarded approximately $ $101 million to organizations nationally. Previously-funded projects include Mississippi’s Choctaw Fresh Produce (link is external) (CFP), a series of 5 farms that built 15 unheated, greenhouse-like structures called high tunnels which protect crops and extend the growing season by aiding the production of thousands of pounds of chemical-free fruits and vegetables. These fruits and vegetables are distributed to tribal members at a low seasonal cost and at a central location through a unique, community-supported agriculture program. With this grant, CFP helped increase healthy food access and overcome geographic and economic barriers facing the community.
Another project, DC Central Kitchen (link is external), a community kitchen in the District of Columbia, develops and operates social ventures targeting the cycle of hunger and poverty. They do this, in part, by preparing adults with high barriers to employment for culinary careers, creating living wage jobs for their graduates, and feeding the District. In 2016, 89 percent of their students with high barriers to employment graduated from the Culinary Job Training program with an 88 percent job placement rate. Additionally, their Community Meals team prepared 1.8 million meals for 82 nonprofits and social service agencies across the District.

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