Before I moved to Iowa, I was already a devotee of farmers and locally-grown food and all that good stuff. I was the only of my friends to join a CSA, I was a customer of Washington’s Green Grocer, and in the summer, the farmers at the market whispered behind their hands about how the girl who liked to fling around cash was cutting a path across the market.
But until I moved here, until I actually got to talk to farmers and call them up to ask them about their dairy products or their produce or how much they loved reclaiming the land from industrial farming, I didn’t really get it.
I probably won’t always live in Iowa. I have friends who have good money placed on my showing up back in the D.C. area again someday. And my heart lies somewhere way closer than an ocean than where I’m sitting now. But regardless, when I leave this state, I will take with me a passion for spreading the gospel of good food raised in a healthy manner. Not processed food, not food that has been shipped for thousands of miles before arriving at my table, but good, local food (organic or not) that nourishes me and those I invite to join me.
For that reason, I need to ask those of you who share this passion to join with me this week and ask your Senators to support funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Community Food Projects (CFP) Program.
What is the CFP program?
More than 240 projects have received CFP grants since 1996. The amounts are often less than $250,000 per grant per year, and that money goes to creating access to local, fresh food and general food security for low-income communities.
In other words, this is not a partisan political issue. This is an issue of creating access to good food grown right here in the U.S. Local food. Tasty food. Regardless of whether you’re a card-carrying whatever, don’t you like to eat? So do I.
CFP dollars at work in Iowa
Here in Iowa, CFP dollars funded the “Digging Deeper” program, which created urban gardens, school gardens, edible landscapes and orchards in downtown Des Moines—bringing food and garden exposure to residents who had no access to such things whatsoever. This cost less than $250,000 over three years. And if you want to see what the program did in your state, simply check out this handy searchable awards database.
The House of Representatives took away the line item funding the CFP when they considered the Farm Bill this year. Its only chance is for the Senate to keep it alive, and Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, is the man to do it. The program needs to be saved. It needs to be funded.
Help support CFP funding
If you care about this issue, please contact your senator, and Senator Tom Harkin, as soon as possible. This is the week—by next week, this is probably all going to be over and it will be too late.
Below, I’ve pasted text of a letter that is oh-so-appropriate for those who live in Iowa. Fax it to Derek Miller (f: 202-228-4576), the staff member in Harkin’s office who will have the most influence on the good Senator, sooner rather than later.
If you don’t live in Iowa, feel free to edit the letter and fax copies to your own Senator and to Derek Miller (this is a case where it doesn’t matter if you’re a constituent), or just call in and express your opinion by phone.
To find your Senators’ contact information, call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121, or look it up at http://www.senate.gov. More information and additional talking points are available on the Community Food Security Coalition’s Web site.
The Honorable Senator Harkin
731 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Attn: Derek Miller
October 2, 2007
Dear Senator Harkin:
As an Iowan, I am writing to thank you for previous support of the USDA’s Community Food Project (CFP) program. I urge you to increase the mandatory funding for CFP to $10 million which will continue to increase access to fresh, local and healthy food for families across Iowa and across the country.
Grants provided for Community Food Projects (CFP) link rural and urban communities, create business opportunities for food producers and increase access to local and healthy foods for consumers. The programs are particularly effective in increasing access to healthy foods in low-income communities and areas with few retail grocery stores, creating profitable urban agricultural gardens and businesses, and engaging children in improving their diets. The program also creates critical grants to support healthy food access in primarily rural and economically depressed farming communities.
However, the demand for the CFP program far exceeds the funding available. Its future needs to be secured by increasing mandatory funding.
Here in Iowa, CFP funds have gone to successful programs in Des Moines which have developed urban gardens and edible landscapes in the city. Yet there are many other communities across Iowa and the rest of the country in need of fresh, healthy food. Thus, I urge you to restore mandatory funding to the CFP program and increase the funding level to $10 million. This action alone can help thousands in need.
[Your name and address here]