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$8.6 Million Available for Community Food Projects

September 21, 2017


Mandela Foods Cooperative in West Oakland, CA. The Mandela Marketplace Inc. is a non-profit organization that has used USDA funding to help develop the community-owned grocery store, as well as community farm stands and a food distribution program. Photo credit: USDA.

Roughly one out of every eight Americans was food insecure (meaning that at times these households were uncertain of having, or unable to acquire, enough food to meet the needs of all their members) in 2016, according to data from the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Economic Research Service (ERS).

Of those households, slightly less than half had what ERS refers to as “very low food security,” meaning that normal eating patterns were disrupted and food was reduced because of insufficient money or other resources. Sadly, despite our nation’s steady recovery from the “Great Recession,” food insecurity numbers have not substantially declined for the last several years.

Since 1996, USDA’s Community Food Projects grant program (CFP) has been tackling our nation’s food insecurity problem by providing assistance to nonprofits, tribal organizations, and food program service providers to advance food security, community self-sufficiency, and increase access to healthy food in low-income communities. Projects have varied in scope over the years and included efforts such as developing community gardens with market stands and helping to build consumer cooperatives. When developed in tandem with the communities they serve, these projects have a significant impact on decreasing food insecurity and increasing access, equity, and community power.

On Tuesday, September 12, USDA announced the availability of approximately $8.6 million in funding through the competitive CFP program. Administered by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), CFP grants are intended to help eligible nonprofits, tribal organizations, and food program service providers launch projects that promote self-sufficiency and food security in low-income communities. Project support ranges from $10,000–$400,000 and project duration can range from one to four years. These one-time grants require a dollar-for-dollar match, which can include an in-kind contribution. View the full application details here.

The deadline to submit applications is December 4, 2017 at 5pm Eastern Time.

CFP grants can fund projects that:

  • Meet the food needs of low-income individuals through food distribution, outreach to increase participation in federally assisted nutrition programs, or improve access to food as part of a comprehensive service;
  • Increase the self-reliance of communities to meet their own food needs;
  • Promote comprehensive responses to local food access, farm, and nutrition issues; and
  • Meet specific state, local, or neighborhood food and agricultural needs, including equipment necessary for the efficient operation of a project, planning for long-term solutions, or innovative marketing activities that mutually benefit agricultural producers and low-income consumers.

Project Examples

Nine members of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) have received CFP grants over the years. Each member worked or is working with their local communities to leverage their CFP project in a way that is engaging, empowering, and sustainable, and each project focuses on the unique needs of the populations they serve. Following are some examples of projects:

In Cherry County Nebraska, the Center for Rural Affairs (CFRA) was awarded a CFP grant in 2015 for their Santee Sioux and UmoNhoN (Omaha) Tribal Food Sovereignty project. The goal of this project was to support community members in understanding their current food systems, create Food Sovereignty Strategic Plans, and help the community move towards realizing those plans. The Santee Sioux and Omaha communities face extreme income and accessibility limitations for fresh foods, but there is widespread community interest in developing new, sovereign food systems that will increase access, improve health, and expand economic opportunity. With the support of a two-year CFP grant, CFRA’s project aimed to: build community understanding of current Santee Sioux and Omaha food systems; develop community-driven Santee Sioux and Omaha food sovereignty plans; and build community buy-in and create foundation for implementation of food sovereignty plan(s).

One of our member’s projects that focused more on urban communities was led by the Illinois Stewardship Alliance (ISA) in 2013. ISA conducted a three-year plan called the Springfield Urban Agriculture Implementation Plan. The plan addressed: reducing food insecurity and improving nutrition by providing low-income households the means to grow a portion of their own food; skills training for preparation of fresh produce; generating income through entrepreneurial initiatives to sell surplus produce and develop value-added products; and partnering with job training programs to develop employment opportunities. ISA’s project sought to acknowledge and confront the challenges that exist in working to achieve health, economic and social outcomes on the East side of Springfield, IL. Through a consensus building strategic process and support from CFP, they developed a plan to implement an urban agriculture initiative to support their local community.

Assistance for Potential Applicants

NIFA, the New Entry Sustainable Farming Project and a number of other community partners have teamed up to provide helpful resources for CFP applicants and existing grantees, including: informational webinars, a grant application writing guide, and one-on-one technical assistance.

NIFA is hosting a webinar for potential CFP applicants on Monday October 16, 2017 at 2:00pm EST. Click here to enter the webinar (link will become live just before webinar begins).

The New Entry project staff is hosting an additional webinar for potential CFP applications on October 25, 2017 at 2:00pm Eastern Time to educate attendees about the grant application process. Click here to learn more and register for the webinar. To apply for technical assistance from the New Entry Sustainable Farming Project, click here.

Program History, Funding, and Farm Bill Changes

CFP was established in the 1996 Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform Act and has been reauthorized in every subsequent farm bill since. The 2014 Farm Bill amended the program in several ways by: allowing “gleaners” to be eligible to receive funding, requesting that projects achieve at least one hunger-free community goal, and expanding the period of grants from 3 to 5 years starting in Fiscal Year 2015.

CFP also saw a sizable increase in funding in the 2014 Farm Bill. The bill provided the program with $9 million in mandatory funding per year starting in fiscal year 2015, nearly double the $5 million funding level provided by the 2008 Farm Bill.


Categories: Grants and Programs, Local & Regional Food Systems, Nutrition & Food Access


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