Community Food Projects


Helping communities increase their self-sufficiency and food security

Increasing access to healthy, local food and improving food security works best when communities are able to develop their own solutions, based on local knowledge, assets, and needs. The Community Food Projects Competitive Grants Program (CFP) awards grants to eligible nonprofits, tribal organizations, and food program service providers to promote self-sufficiency and food security, address specific needs, and provide comprehensive, community-based solutions in low-income communities.  Projects vary in scope, ranging from community gardens with market stands to marketing and consumer cooperatives, but must involve low-income participants.

Learn More About CFP!

Program Basics

CFP is a competitive grants program that is administered by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). Grants are intended to help eligible nonprofits, tribal organizations, and food program service providers in need of a one-time infusion of federal assistance for projects that promote self-sufficiency and food security, address specific needs, and provide comprehensive, community-based solutions in low-income communities.  These one-time grants require a dollar-for-dollar (1:1) match in resources, which can include in-kind support.

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.

Examples of CFP projects include, but are not limited to: community food assessments, GIS analysis, community gardens with market stands, value chain projects, food hubs, farmers markets, farm-to-institution projects, and marketing and consumer cooperatives.

Approximately 18 percent of submitted proposals were successful in receiving awards in Fiscal Year 2013. Thanks to increased funding in the 2014 Farm Bill, a greater percentage of proposals may receive awards in the future. The new farm bill provides the program with $9 million in mandatory funding per year starting in Fiscal Year 2015 — nearly double its $5 million annual funding level from the 2008 Farm Bill. 

Eligibility

Public food program service providers, tribal organizations, and private nonprofit entities meeting the following three requirements are eligible to receive a CFP grant:

  • have experience in the area of:
    • community food work, including the provision of food to people in low-income communities and the development of new markets in low-income communities for agricultural producers, particularly small and medium-size farms;
    • job training and business development activities for food-related activities in low-income communities; or
    • reducing food insecurity in the community through efforts such as distributing food, improving access to services, or coordinating services and programs;
  • demonstrate competency to implement a project, provide fiscal accountability, collect data, and prepare reports and other necessary documentation;
  • demonstrate a willingness to share information with researchers, evaluators, practitioners, and other interested parties, including a plan for dissemination of results; and
  • agree to work with local partners to achieve at least one of the congressionally-designated hunger-free communities goals, such as having a community-based emergency food delivery network, conducting a community food insecurity assessment, participating in a federal nutrition program, developing food resources such as community gardens, farmers markets, and food cooperatives, having a community nutrition education program, and having a gleaning program, among others.

The Program in Action

Since 1996, CFP has provided approximately $85 million in grants to hundreds of local food security projects.

For example, CFP grants have been used to:

  • Perform community food assessments, create a rural community food planning team, and develop a three-year plan to improve access to healthy, local food in four targeted counties in South Dakota;
  • Provide training and technical assistance to individuals and groups in the South running farmers markets, promoting school gardening, establishing food policy councils, and increasing local food production; and
  • Construct community greenhouses, offer workshops on seed saving, and expand tilling services for the White Earth Nation in northern Minnesota.

To read descriptions of all CFP-funded projects since 2000, visit: www.whyhunger.org/cfp

How to Apply and Program Resources

NIFA typically releases a Request for Applications (RFAs) once a year. Applicants are usually given one month to complete and submit their applications to NIFA, using the online system grants.gov – but preparing an application in advance of the RFA is wise. Proposals are then reviewed by panel of experts, including producers, consumers, educators, and extension specialists, and evaluated for relevance, applicant experience, and overall impact of the project.

Interested applicants can find out more about program and application requirements, future RFAs, and how to apply for funding at USDA’s CFP program page.

NIFA also actively recruits farmers, community food advocates, andnon-profit leaders to serve on the Peer Review Panel for CFP. Contact the National Program Leader listed in the RFA for more details on serving on the panel.

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. The 2014 Farm Bill amended the program in several ways: 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 provides the program with $9 million in mandatory funding per year starting in Fiscal Year 2015, nearly double its $5 million funding level provided by the 2008 Farm Bill.

Community Food Projects Grants Funding 

Fiscal Year Total Funding Available (in millions)
2014 $5
2015 $9
2016 $9
2017 $9
2018 $9
5 yr total $41
10 yr total $86

Authorizing Language

Section 4026 of the Agricultural Act of 2014 amends Section 25 of the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008, to be codified at 7 U.S.C. Section 2034


Last updated in October 2014.