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CSREES Celebrates 10 Years of Community Food Projects

Jennifer Martin, CSREES Staff, (202) 720-8188

March 22, 2007

More than 100 grant recipients, USDA officials and guests helped the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES) celebrate 10 years of meeting the food needs of low-income people through the Community Food Projects (CFP) on March 19, 2007, at the USDA Headquarters in Washington, DC.

CSREES Administrator Colien Hefferan said the CFP program is highly treasured at USDA for its ability to solve real-world problems and for its role as a catalyst for developing innovative systems to meet national hunger needs while strengthening local communities.

Robert Egger, president and CEO of DC Central Kitchen, said the past decade has shown the hunger community the “evolution of a really good idea.” DC Central Kitchen is a non-profit organization that recovers unused food to prepare and deliver meals to social service agencies, train and employ homeless men and women for the food service industry, and intellectually engage volunteers.

Egger said the Community Food Projects program was “so far ahead of the curve in recognizing hunger isn't about food, but realizing the role food plays in economics and keeping money local.” Egger and DC Central Kitchen use food as a tool to strengthen bodies, empower minds and build communities. DC Central Kitchen catered the event.

Congress created the Community Food Projects program in 1996 under the Farm Bill and renewed it in 2002. Since then, CSREES has awarded 243 grants and more than $36 million, which has been matched by local resources. The program seeks to meet the food needs of low-income people, increase the self-reliance of communities in providing for their own food needs, and promote comprehensive responses to food, farm and nutrition issues.

Fiscal year 2006 marked the first time small grants of up to $25,000 were awarded to non-profits for planning projects to assess community needs and to identify and plan long-term solutions to meet those needs. This funding also helps develop local collaborations to advance food security for all residents encompassing all sectors of the food system—public, private non-profit and private for-profit.

The funded projects are seen as having a meaningful impact on ensuring access to food in all communities. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Chuck Conner noted at the celebration that the program “reflects the economic and cultural diversity of America .” Examples of funded projects include:

  • a community kitchen making value-added products in the Appalachian mountains of Tennessee ;
  • a revitalization of Native American dryland farming practices in the Sonoran desert of Arizona ;
  • a teen-run juice and muffin bar on the Lower East Side of New York City;
  • a pork producers cooperative in rural Missouri marketing sustainably-raised meat; and
  • an urban agricultural center and farming enterprise among Puerto Rican immigrants in Massachusetts .

Liz Tuckermanty, CSREES national program leader, manages the CFP program along with the help of Zy Weinberg as panel manager. They have listened to those committed to fighting hunger and creatively designed the program to expand practices that work and eliminate practices that fail. Both are well versed not only in community food programs but also in community gardens and farms, public/private partnerships, and in coalitions linking professionals in those fields.

CSREES staff is committed to making the next 10 years of Community Food Projects just as, if not more, successful as the first decade. CSREES expects that the CFP program will be in the forefront of an ever-expanding universe of solutions that are bring healthful food to all Americans, restoring the economic prosperity of communities and ensuring the viability and sustainability of local agriculture.

CSREES advances knowledge for agriculture, the environment, human health and well-being, and communities by supporting research, education, and extension programs in the Land-Grant University System and other partner organizations. For more information, visit http://www.csrees.usda.gov .