Showcasing Community Innovation: USDA Community Food Project Profiles

Our partner, David Hanson, crackerjack freelance writer and multimedia producer based in Seattle, WA, is on a nation-wide journey to document and share the stories of innovative USDA Community Food Projects around the country.  This is how David describes the Community Food Projects program, the types of projects the program supports and their  impact in each community:

There are hundreds of these programs around the country. And exponentially more people who have benefited from them. Trickle down, I guess. But not through the kinds of stratified layers of class that Reaganites applaud. I’ve noticed so far that these grants plug directly into small-scale projects that bring food to people. A few have sputtered and faded since the money flow ran out years ago. I call executive directors who weren’t even on staff when the grant was running and have no idea of its present manifestation, if any. But the majority of the CFP-funded projects are still alive or have evolved into new forms, a luxury of being focused and nimble and directly linked to the communities they are meant to support.

Most of the projects are small. As small as a handful of youth managing twelve shelves of fruit and produce in three corner stores of West Oakland, a community of 25,000 residents with one grocery store and fifty-three liquor stores. Or a parent of elementary school children managing an after-school produce stand at the Martin Luther King Jr School, also in West Oakland. The woman boasted of encouraging a young girl to try an orange for the first time: “It tastes like a Starburst,” she’d told her. The girl tried the pink-flesh orange that grew a few counties away and she was hooked on fresh fruit.

Or as small as Maria and her kids tending, harvesting, and selling the fruit their husband/father planted twenty years ago. Soil Born Farms is a non-profit in Sacramento that supports and encourages sustainable growers and farm education programs throughout the city. In 2006 the farm manager Randy heard about a man selling peaches at a crazy low price at one of the city farmer’s markets. Randy found the man and the man invited Randy to his orchard.

To read the organizational profile, including the full story of Maria, Carlos, Randy and Soil Born Farms, visit .   And don’t miss the vibrant portraits and gorgeous photos from his adventures on David’s blog, Meeting People.


Lorrie Clevenger