Food is turning up everywhere, and I don’t mean on your plate. For the past year, journalists and authors have stuck on the topic like peanut butter to the roof of your mouth, and what’s especially notable is the focus on policy solutions and the Farm Bill. Articles are so numerous that as I started to compile them, I realized that I could spend a whole post just linking to them (find a few here).
As I contemplate the impact of our farm and food policy on the environment, how to reduce food miles, and the impact of our diet on global warming, I am also aware that local food is often perceived as elitist. Healthy and local food is often more expensive because farmers are taking care of their workers and the land, but it still needs to be accessible to everyone, both in regards to price and where consumers can buy healthy local food. One way that the Farm Bill can impact the ability of all people to eat locally is to fund programs that help connect low-income consumers to farmers, or in some cases to the land itself.
One such program that does this is called the Community Food Projects Competitive Grant Program (CFP). This program gives resources to help communities identify problems related to food security, and empowers residents to solve these problems in ways that make the most sense for the given situation.
When people feel empowered, they can be inspired to create a difference in their communities. When people have a voice in the changes that directly help their families, they become invested in the process and positive results continue to grow and succeed. This is why Community Food Projects has been so successful. Since 1996, the program has funded over 240 innovative and creative projects — including shared community kitchens, farm-to-school projects, youth and urban farming projects, and farmers’ markets. Many of them incorporate community-building activities like art, music, and storytelling, giving further incentive to keep the program going after the federal funding is over.
After hearing about Community Food Projects, most people understand immediately why it is important to the communities it serves. Unfortunately, some legislators are a little slower to lend their support, and this is evident in the Farm Bill that the House of Representatives passed. CFP has gotten $5 million a year in mandatory money since 2002, and the fact that it is mandatory means that people can count on the funding being there year after year. In the House Farm Bill, CFP received only discretionary money, which means that advocates would have to return to Congress every year asking for money.
The people who benefit from CFP are not asking for a handout, they are asking for an investment. They are willing to put in time and effort to make their community a healthier place to live, and all they need is for Congress to give them a chance.
The Farm Bill is moving to the Senate now, and Senators need to hear that programs that invest in the food security of communities need funding. Contact your senators today and ask them to fund Community Food Projects with as close to $30 million in mandatory money as they can. Your senators’ contact information can be found by calling the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121. Or look it up here.
All Senators are important to contact, but if one of your Senators is on the Agriculture Committee, they especially need to hear from you.
These quick phone calls will take only a few minutes of your time, but could make a huge impact on whether this program continues. Thank you for making your voice heard!