The Community Food Stories Project was developed during the delayed, extended and continuing 2012/13 Farm Bill reauthorization process, when programs critical to building a sustainable and equitable food system were left stranded. Some of these programs include funding to support and promote: school gardens and garden-based curriculum; access to healthy, affordable food; land stewardship and conservation; fruit and vegetable growers, small and beginning farmers, and farmers of color.
With one ear to the ground, and one ear to the Hill, CFJC recognizes that what is missing most in federal policy reform is the connection between public policy and communities. Namely, we want to ask, how does what happens in Washington D.C. affect people’s lives? The Community Food Stories Project aims to transform food and farm policy to reflect the needs of communities. Through the Project, CFJC will work to uplift and document the stories of those working on the ground, advocate for equitable food and farm legislation, educate our legislators on issues of equity, and build people power to ensure that communities once again hold the most powerful voice for legislation that will impact them. At CFJC, we believe the power of story can lead to transformation. It can be hard to fully understand the impact legislation has on you and your community, which is why CFJC works to make those connections between people and policy. Through various forms of storytelling, the Community Food Stories Project works to connect the dots in three main ways:
- Impact Legislation – Policies made on the national, state and local levels have huge impacts on people and communities. The stories uplifted through this project shed light on the positive impacts critical programs have on urban and rural communities and our food system throughout the country. By telling these stories, our legislators can learn about the great work being done in communities because of equitable policies, more people can learn why equity is important in public policy, and we can more effectively advocate on current and future legislation.
- Community Power –The biggest part of the Community Food Stories Project is building connections and partnerships through dialogue and information sharing. Being connected to partners who work closely with legislators, CFJC is in a position to share what we hear in terms of public policy decision making and policy processes. We have realistic discussions about what policies mean for our partners who work with and provide services for local community members. By transmitting knowledge of what is happening on the policy level to those who are directly impacted by those policies, communities once again hold the most powerful voice. These conversations put the power back into the hands of the community.
- Documentation and Communication – By sharing and documenting stories, we are able to share experiences beyond our inner circle, and learn from each other. Stories have been told in cultures for centuries, to share community knowledge, practices, and values. The Community Food Stories Project is a platform to document, through the voice of the community, the important stories of how our food and farm policy affects people in their every day lives. The stories can exhibit ways in which we work together to build a community-driven food system where policies support the community’s needs.
The “Faces of the Farm Bill” series will shed light on the stories of those who depend on programs currently left stranded or which have had funding cut in past Farm Bill proposals and extensions. The stories will highlight the important and transformative work of the most critical subset of programs and offices in the Farm Bill charged with serving the most chronically underserved segments of agriculture and our rural and urban communities.
Explore our first story in the series, and share with your networks. These are the stories that have been unheard while Congress has been stripping the bill under the guise of savings.
Faces of the Farm Bill
Farm Bill Funding: A Community Perspective
Kad, a young man about to graduate from college, has been working for Farm Fresh Choice for five years now. He manages one of the three farmers market stands that the program operates. Having grown up around the block from one of these markets, Kad recognizes himself in some of the kids who come to the stand, who show up with Cheetos in hand but leave with fresh strawberries. Kad has seen the impact of Farm Fresh Choice in his own life and in the culture of the neighborhoods where they work.
Farm Fresh Choice, a program of The Ecology Center, operates low-cost market stands in low-income neighborhoods of Berkeley, California. The youth-run stands bring make healthy fresh food accessible in areas where liquor stores are the norm. Kad connects with families and individuals over Saturday conversations and knowledge sharing about the kinds of foods that are sold at the market, and how to use them. Farm Fresh Choice youth leaders work to interact with and influence kids in the neighborhood who are just beginning to determine their preferences for different foods. The market creates a space for the community to come together, connect over healthy food options, and helps to shift kids’ personal food decisions. The children who frequent the farm stand are faced with a very different food environment once they step out of it. Kad has the chance to break down social assumptions about the accessibility of foods, providing proof that organic foods can actually be affordable, and that access to healthy affordable food is a right, not a privilege. The youth who run the stores have seen the neighborhood transform and gone through their own personal transformation through their work. Through the market, youth learn the benefit of fresh, healthy foods and bring that conviction home to their families.
Funding from the Farm Bill makes this program possible: it offers the support needed to organize the logistics of the market; it increases access to healthy foods for low-income families through SNAP benefits and EBT; it allows community members to share recipes for healthy eating with fresh foods; and it facilitates community-driven change. Food access is food justice. Farm Bill funding for Community Food Programs and SNAP-Education allows local programs to provide the tools for change that all communities deserve. Kad sees the impact this market has on families in the neighborhood every week, and the impact on his community every day. Farm Fresh Choice is just one of many projects funded through critical Farm Bill programs that sparks invaluable change in the communities where they work. The Community Food Programs and SNAP-Education are critical Farm Bill programs for the continuation of building a sustainable, thriving, equitable, and healthy food economy that supports people.