The season to eat, drink and be merry is just around the corner. Unfortunately, there are still too many people scrimping, sacrificing and doing without. According to the USDA, an estimated 12.7% of all U.S. households (15.8 million people) experienced food insecurity in 2015. Simply put, that means they did not know if they could prevent those under their roof from going hungry at some point during the year. The good news is things are improving. Food insecurity was down 14% from 2014. Yet, there is still more to be done. Which is why we are bringing you two different federal programs, The Community Food Projects Competitive Grants Program and Local Foods Local Places, that both encourage communities to explore healthy self-sufficient food systems as a path to broader economic revitalization.
The Community Food Projects Competitive Grants Program
The USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture's Community Food Projects Competitive Grants program seeks to strengthen partnerships between stakeholders in the community to reduce and prevent food insecurity while encouraging healthy eating. Among its primary goals are to:
- Meet the needs of low-income people via food distribution and improved access, and provide outreach to those in federally assisted nutrition programs.
- Increase the self-reliance of communities to meet their own needs.
- Meet specific state, local, or neighborhood food and agricultural needs regarding food production and distribution.
Preference will be given to projects that connect two of more sectors of the food system, including for-profit and nonprofit partners, support entrepreneurial projects, encourage long-term planning and interagency cooperation, and develop new resources and strategies to reduce and prevent food insecurity.
Selected Past Recipients
- Choctaw Nation, OK - The Preserving Choctaw Culture by Growing Hope program encourages members to grow traditional food. Establishing a seed bank for culturally relevant plants, and promoting healthy eating, physical activity and economic opportunities are among their goals.
- Muhlenberg CO, KY - Madisonville Community College, Muhlenberg County High School, and Muhlenberg County 4-H teamed up to build a hydroponic greenhouse for Muhlenberg County High's campus. The fresh produce will be used in the cafeteria and 4-H food programs for low-income students. In addition, there will be expanded courses in agricultural and food production in the college's advanced technology program. The community at large will benefit with classes in hydroponic gardening techniques.
- Fullerton, CA - Hart Community Homes, the social enterprise Monkey Business Cafe, the Fullerton Arboretum and other partners help provide job training in farming and the culinary industry to young adults who have recently come out of the foster care system.
- Los Angeles, CA - The cooperative COMPRA FOODS brings fresh produce and wholesome snacks to small convenience stores in food deserts.
- Yonkers, NY - In Southwest Yonkers where there is only one grocery store for 80,000 people, Get Fresh Yonkers will put an expanded farmers market, a new rooftop farm and food and agricultural related jobs on the menu.
Applying for the Community Food Projects Competitive Grants Program
This program is currently accepting applications for both community food and planning projects. Eligible applicants include public food program service providers, tribal organizations, and nonprofits. Projects should include low income people. Refer to the RFA for further requirements. Read the complete list of funded projects for more examples. Apply by November 30, 2016.
The Local Foods, Local Places Program
It is hard not to get excited about the Local Foods, Local Places program. Sponsored by the EPA, the USDA and other federal agencies, its purpose is also to enable local food systems to become catalysts for healthier residents, economic revitalization and environmental responsibility. Partners in the program are working on projects that include:
- Expansion of farmers markets
- Grocery co-ops that help local main streets reinvent themselves
- Food hubs and community kitchens that support local startups
- School gardens
- Bikeable, walkable, public transit friendly grids that connect community gardens, libraries and restaurants
Applying for the Local Foods, Local Places Program
Winning applicants will receive planning assistance provided in a two-day community workshop. Experts will help awardees develop a plan to promote and enhance local food systems and neighborhood revitalization. Applicants in the federally designated Appalachian and Delta areas may also be eligible to receive support for implementation outside of planning assistance. Eligible applicants include local government, Native American tribes, school districts, academic institutions and nonprofits. Apply by November 6, 2016