The CFP: Supporting Elegant Resolutions to Complex Problems

In eastern Tennessee, farmers are moving out of tobacco production and into fruits and vegetables. Thanks to the Jubillee Project's Clinch Powell Community Kitchen, they are able to extend their profitability by turning some of the produce into preserves, sauces, pickles and relishes. In New York, hundreds of teenaged girls are helping to run "Juice Joints" through Lower East Side Girls Club, and are learning about local food, good nutrition, and business skills. On the Tohono O'odham reservation in Arizona, tribal members are growing and eating traditional foods again, and watching their diabetes rate fall.

Since 1996, the USDA's Community Food Project (CFP) program has funded over 240 projects like these in both rural and urban areas. Its projects help ensure that low income people have access to good, fresh food, that communities are feeding their people well, and that family farmers are able to find markets for their products.

These projects are good work done right. Whereas many funding sources are focused on a single issue, the CFP recognizes the connections between hunger, access to farmland and markets, business training, health, and nutrition. It looks for multifaceted approaches that address interrelated problems and offer compounded benefits.

A systems approach such as this requires that many voices be heard. Thus, the program includes rigorous requirements for coalition building. The resulting projects reflect the particular needs of their locales. CFP grant recipients create powerful, elegant, local solutions to complex and often entrenched social issues.

Understandably, this is a hugely popular program. Over 460 non-profit organizations approached the USDA in the hopes of securing a CFP grant for 2008. A couple of dozen would have been selected, but this year's application process has been suspended because of "uncertainty” about the program's funding.

For the last decade, the CFP has received mandatory funding through the Farm Bill, and this type of support is included again in the Senate version of the bill. Unfortunately, the House bill went with discretionary funding instead. If this version passes, the program's funding would rely on annual appropriations, a much less stable scenario. No funding was appropriated for fiscal year 2008.

Everyone should have access to excellent, healthy food. That's a given, once you think about it. But our political representatives need to hear it from us. So. About those calls. Please take three minutes and call your House of Representatives member and both Senators and tell them two things:

  • Tell them that you are very concerned that continued CFP funding is in jeopardy in the Farm Bill.
  • For the Senators, please thank them for the Senate's support, and ask them to make sure the final bill contains $10 million in mandatory funding.
  • Urge your Representatives to contact conference committee leaders to make sure that $10 million in mandatory funding is included in the final version of the bill. If your Representative is a Democrat, have him/her call Chairman Peterson; if your Representative is a Republican, have him contact Rep. Goodlatte.
Here's the number of the Congressional switchboard: 202-224-3121. Thanks so much for taking a few minutes to help save the funding for this great program.

Photo by Long Hungry Creek Farm

Back to the February 2008 Newsletter