Community food projects help fight food insecurity

Thursday, April 7, 2016
Food secure households have access, at all times, to enough food for an active, healthy life. At a minimum, this includes readily available, nutritious, and safe foods. Many communities address hunger through local projects such as building local infrastructure; increasing economic and job security; and providing federal food assistance, food recovery and donations, education and awareness, community food production and marketing support.

NIFA’s Community Food Projects (CFP) Competitive Grant Program fights food insecurity through community-based projects that promote the self-sufficiency of low-income communities. CFPs bring the whole food system together to assess strengths and create systems that improve the self-reliance of community members over their food needs.

The Rockford Urban Training Farm and Enterprise Development project in Caledonia, Ill., led by Angelic Organics Learning Center, established an urban farm at a public housing site to grow and sell fresh produce and incorporate a job-training program for both youth and adults. The project addresses the need for more reliable access to fresh, healthy produce in the community as well as helping to find solutions for the unemployment and low-income levels of many area residents. The center is located in an area where only 13 percent of the population is located within half a mile of a healthy food source.  In 2014, the center held 123 youth trainings; 36 educational cooking and nutrition workshops; 42 community events or educational trainings on site; and 13 field trips off site to expose participants to sustainable agriculture, local foods, and urban farming. In addition, the group harvested and made available, 5,253 lbs. of fresh food to Caledonia residents in 2014.

Another CFP, the Food Bank Coalition of San Luis Obispo County (SLO) in Paso Robles, Calif., is increasing the availability of produce for the local food bank to distribute.  The food bank has focused on publicizing the benefits of their services to local growers, using local media and partnering with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s local farm inspectors. In 2014, 206,079 pounds of produce was harvested from farms and backyards in the county. This produce has been distributed by the SLO Food Bank, increasing access to fresh and local produce for low-income residents of San Luis Obispo County. The food bank also implemented the “Harvest of the Month” program in local elementary schools, introducing the local food system to children through monthly produce tastings.

Another CFP, RootDown LA, is operating in three South Los Angeles neighborhoods with the help of the youth participants, referred to as “Cultivars.” This youth-driven organization works closely with members of the community to grow fresh fruits and vegetables and provide access to higher quality food. The goal of all of RootDown LA activities is for people to choose to eat good food. The impact goes beyond nutrition and access to food; RootDown LA provides employment for local youth to manage activities at their various sites. Many early participants are now paid staff who handle day-to-day operations and manage youth interns and the network of neighborhood gardens.

Between 2009 and 2015, USDA has invested over $1 billion in more than 40,000 local and regional food businesses and infrastructure projects. For more information, view the USDA Results campaign.

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