The Community Food Projects (CFP) grant program is to the U. S. Department of Agriculture what one tomato seed is to a large garden. It may not look like much in the palm of your hand, but when handled properly, it’s a mighty force for community food system change. Since CFP is harbored within the Farm Bill and occupies a small slip within the SNAP program, it, like numerous other food and farm programs is up for Congressional reauthorization this year. That means we — Food Citizens United! — must rise up now to ensure CFP’s inclusion within the new Farm Bill, and that it receives $10 million per year in funding, up from its current level of $5 million.

Like this newsletter that you read for free, CFP is a bargain. I have seen dozens of funded projects and the communities they benefit over the years. I have written about many of them ( Twenty-five Years of Food Security, Good Food, and Empowerment * | Mark Winne, New Mexico Goes for the Whole Enchilada* | Mark Winne, The Julietta Market Brings the Community Together*(##) | Mark Winne, Taking Back a City the Green Way | Mark Winne) to illustrate the thousands of food system jobs those projects create, the tens of millions of local and state dollars they leverage for healthy, local food, and the contribution they make to the vivacity, sustainability, and quality of community life. Punching way above its weight, CFP gives the imaginative among us—those possessed of a vision for a healthier and prosperous place—permission to dream and the means to bring that dream to life.

Other than the ten minutes of your attention this newsletter requests of you each month, I have never asked for even a modest subscription fee, nor a portion of any negotiable securities you may possess, not even a few trinkets from your semi-precious jewelry. Well, it’s payback time! All that I ask you to do in return for this humble blog is to contact your Member of Congress and your two U.S. Senators and ask them to include CFP in the Farm Bill and authorize a funding level of $10 million annually (I’ll give you more details in a minute).

What happens if you don’t? Well, not only may CFP get washed out to sea via some industrial farm’s pesticide-laden drainage ditch, but the opportunity also to advance food system change will be seriously diminished. How will I know if you don’t contact your elected federal officials? The algorithm I designed for this blog tracks it all! It knows if you garden, the kind of peanut butter you feed your children, and the last time you ate a hot dog. It also knows the two subscribers who voted for Trump in 2020 (You have six months to get right with your Lord!).

Wherever a CFP grant lands, serious amounts of good gets done. In Dorchester, Mass., CFP funding helped community residents fulfill their long sought after hope of developing a food coop, Now largely staffed by the people who live there, it’s bringing healthy, local and affordable food to a neighborhood that has had limited access to the same. Along the shores of the Klamath River in northern California, a CFP grant has enabled the Yurok Tribe to reclaim the food sovereignty it once enjoyed a century ago, and in so doing, restore the health of their tribal members. After the Flint, Michigan water crisis forced two grocery stores to close, CFP funds and the North Flint Development Corporation, serving a 98 percent Black community, are putting the finishing touches on a new grocery store.  Converting a 21,000-square-feet, former church to a full-service coop supermarket, this enterprise is owned and loved by over 1,000, North Flint community member investors.

How do we keep this ball rolling? Contact your Congressperson, each of your two senators, and, if you have one or more Congresspersons in your state who serve on the House Agriculture Committee, contact them too. You can Google your Congressperson’s name, go to their website, and leave your message. You can also call the Congressional switchboard at (202) 224-3121 to be connected to your member (you’ll have to do it one member at a time) and then leave a message. To see if you have a House Agriculture Committee member in your state, check here Committee Members | House Agriculture Committee.

What do we say? Ask them to please keep the Community Food Projects grant program in the Farm Bill and to authorize spending at $10 million per year. If you know anything about a CFP project in your area, leave a brief and positive description of it. If you have friends or family, ask them to speak up as well. If you don’t, CFP is a great way to make some. I met a couple once who met each other while turning the compost pile at their CFP-funded community garden. They married a year later.

Since you’re reaching out to your elected officials any way, there’s one more thing I’d like you to ask, and this is from my friends at the Food Research Action Center (FRAC). Request that your members “oppose a Farm Bill that would make harmful cuts and policy changes to SNAP and any other federal nutrition program.” You see, those House Republicans are always up to some mischief. After all, their first priority is making the world safe for billionaires by keeping their taxes low while looking for ways to cut food stamps. I’ve always wondered what church or temple they attend, and try as I may, I’ve yet to find scripture that says, “Thou shall take from the poor and give to the rich.”

What I’m asking you to do is a prime example of food democracy—people speaking up loud and clear for what they want. With Community Food Projects, we are not only striking a blow for food security and food justice, but we are also providing the tools that communities need to build the food system they need.

Thank you, and don’t worry, your subscription is safe!