The Food Group’s Community Food Project
The Food Group focuses on growing, gleaning (i.e. harvesting extra), and processing fresh fruits and vegetables for our partner food shelves and meal programs. One facet of our programming includes the USDA’s Community Food Project (CFP) grant, a grant that strives to improve food access and increase self-reliance of communities in meeting their food needs.
In addition to processing freshly gleaned produce, the CFP grant allows The Food Group to focus our efforts on developing community programming to engage individuals who want to impact their local food communities.
This year, our six Community Food Leaders have spent time exploring the ways in which they want to be leaders in their food communities: one participant is interested in food processing, while another is more engaged with policy; one wants to retire to be a farmer and one wants to grow healthy vegetables with their grandchild. Each participant is motivated by their own histories with food, and with the way that they see food impacting their lives now.
Step into power through food stories
One ongoing aspect of the program is Food Stories. The discovery and telling of our Food Stories allows us to understand and express why food is important to us and our families. Often, food systems work can be hard to engage with for people who aren’t employed by food-related organizations, or “in the know.” We share Food Stories as a way to step into our power around being leaders. We all eat, we all have families who have fed us, or recipes that mean something to us.
Humans have experienced bounty or lack, have shared meals, have cooked for one another, have worked hard for food justice. These are all valid and powerful ways that our Community Food Leaders – and all of us! – are connected to food. And these are all the things we bring to the food systems work we do. Each week, different participants share their Food Story with the group. By reflecting on our relationship to food, we are able to say to ourselves and one another, “I belong here and I can do this work.”
Our stories are weaving together these experiences we share as a group. Each time we meet, we build upon our relationships, and our understanding of food work across the Twin Cities metro. We have watched a Ron Finley film about community gardening and spent time in the community garden. We have traveled to the HAFA (Hmong American Farming Association) farm and learned about farming as a tool for economic justice and cultural preservation. We have saved seeds, visited a farmer’s market, cooked and eaten together. We have shared recipes and songs and car trips. And we aren’t even done yet!
The Community Food Leaders program is vibrant experience full of power and possibility – all because of the humans who are participating.
This post was written by Ari Baum-Hommes, The Food Group Produce Programs Coordinator. Questions about the Community Food Leader program? Contact Ari.