Grapevine Issue 7

News and Resources for CFSC Members

You can read previous issues at the Grapevine Issue Archive.

If you are part of a CFSC member organization and others in your group would like to receive this newsletter directly, send their names and email addresses to Emily Becker.

Program News

Farm to Cafeteria Conference: The Next Generation Leads the Way

CFSC received a grand welcome to our new home base of Portland, Oregon in March with over 650 participants attending the 4th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference. Sponsored by CFSC, the National Farm to School NetworkReal Food Challenge, and School Food FOCUS, this event celebrated a new level of collaboration and diversity.

Highlights included an inspiring youth-led plenary with live music and a screening of the winners of a national “Real Food Is” video contest. A panel of youth advocates, including The Rethinkers from New Orleans, shared their successes promoting farm to school, stirring up a standing ovation for the next generation. Later in the conference, School Nutrition Association President Katie Wilson presented a call to action for changing food policy through the upcoming Child Nutrition Reauthorization. To eat what we preach, we held the closing reception at the University of Portland dining commons, where we enjoyed top quality garcinia cambogia and the humor and historic perspective of the dynamic Joan Gussow.

Presenters’ slides will be available soon on the conference website.

Linking Limited Resource Producers with Institutional Markets
Through funding from the USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA), CFSC recently partnered with organizations in Maine and Texas to build bridges between limited resource producers and institutional food service providers. The New American Sustainable Agriculture Project(NASAP) and CASA del Llano both held successful trainings with farmers and hospital and university food service providersearly this year.

NASAP, which works with immigrant farmers (mostly from Somalia and Sudan) in Maine, and CASA, which works with Latino farmers in Texas, are both holding follow up meetings to strategize about how to develop cooperative efforts with local institutions. Overall, both the farmers and institutional food service providers have demonstrated significant interest in working together. Plans are underway to hold a health fair at a local hospital, with food provided by CASA farmers. CASA is also exploring how to engage local youth in their efforts.

Related resources created with FSA support:

CASA del Llano training participants

National Policy Update: Keeping the Focus on Child Nutrition 
Like many of our partners, CFSC is excited about the increased interest in local and healthy foods demonstrated by the new Administration and some key USDA officials.  The new Deputy Secretary, Kathleen Merrigan, is a longtime champion of organic and local foods and will likely be actively involved in policy issues in her new post. One of her stated goals is to ensure that the Child Nutrition Act improves access to fresh food, especially fruits and vegetables in school lunch programs.

Currently the administration is working to set their priorities for this large piece of legislation. CFSC is working with the administration and various other partners, such as School Food FOCUS, the National Farm to School Network, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, and the Wallace Center, to make sure that mandatory funding for farm to school makes the cut. CFSC hopes to work very closely with Ms. Merrigan and her new Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services, Janey Thornton, on the upcoming Child Nutrition Act Reauthorization.

CFSC also has been working with USDA on the new People’s Gardensand local school food procurement, and to inform officials of the need for a Farm to Institution and Local Foods liaison within the USDA.  For more information, visit our Federal Policy Program webpage.

Food Policy Councils Bustin’ Out All Over
It must be spring, because food policy councils and proposals to develop them are popping up like daffodils in green meadows. From Austin to Boston, Missoula to Virginia, and Cleveland to Maryland, people are coming together in record numbers to speak their minds, share their views, and organize around food, farming, and health.

In Austin, Texas, city and county officials affirmatively stated that they want the new Sustainable Food Policy Board to help local farmers and enhance the food security of the area’s most vulnerable populations. The Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Food Policy Coalition led the successful charge for zoning code changes that will protect community gardens and permit raising chickens and keeping beehives in the city. CFSC supported the development of both of these organizations.

CFSC’s Food Policy Council Project has been assisting the “newbies” as well as the longer standing councils through workshops, conference calls, and direct one-to-one phone and email assistance. We’re also gearing up for a national conference on October 10 at the CFSC Annual ConferenceContact: Mark Winne

CFSC Collaborating With Healthy Eating Minnesota Initiative
CFSC recently began a new collaboration with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota (Blue Cross) to provide technical assistance for many of Blue Cross’ Healthy Eating Minnesota (HEM) partners. The HEM groups will be creating grassroots projects designed to improve eating habits by increasing access to healthy foods, especially fruits and vegetables. Two of these organizations are CFSC members: the Land Stewardship Project and the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.

CFSC will work with the HEM organizations on a variety of approaches, including conducting food assessments, organizing food policy councils, and developing the local food system infrastructure. This effort is all part of a long-term Blue Cross health improvement initiative called Prevention Minnesota. Prevention Minnesota works to tackle the root causes of preventable heart disease and cancer and is funded with proceeds from its tobacco settlement. For more information on the HEM contracts, visit Prevention Minnesota.

Committee Updates

International Links Committee
The International Links Committee connects CFSC to its food security allies around the world, particularly through information sharing and education. We recently started alternating our monthly calls between open discussions on topical issues featuring special invited guests, and more internal discussions about ongoing committee work.

February’s ILC call featured exciting reports from the 5th international conference of the peasants’ movement La Via Campesina, held last October in Mozambique. Key themes of the conference were the connections between the food, financial, and climate crises, and the critical role of family farming and sustainable agriculture in addressing these crises. The March call focused on planning for the international dimensions of the upcoming CFSC annual conference.

ILC calls are typically the last Thursday of each month. To get involved, contact committee Co-chair Christina Schiavoni.

Food & Faith Committee
The CFSC Food & Faith Committee is engaged in a revival. We have a new co-chair, Rev. Stephanie Ahlschwede, a United Methodist pastor from Omaha, Nebraska who helps run a popular community garden program.  She has joined forces with Sharon Thornberry of the Oregon Food Bank to lead the committee.  The committee will submit proposals for two workshops at the CFSC Conference in Des Moines, meet in person at the conference, and hold calls every other month between now and then. If you are interested in joining the committee, contact co-chair Sharon Thornberry.

Related Links: CFSC committees

Other CFSC News

Completing Our Strategic Road Map
CFSC’s Strategic Planning Committee is continuing its work to develop a ‘strategic road map’ based on seven goals aimed at building political voice and power, improving communications and collaboration, increasing community-based capacity building, improving membership engagement, and strengthening the organizational structure.

CFSC Staff and Board held a face-to-face meeting in March to start fleshing out specific action plans for the strategic goals and objectives. Follow-up work to refine the plan is continuing through three action teams that include board, staff, and members. The draft plan builds on extensive stakeholder feedback compiled through the last two annual meetings, a member survey, and one-on-one interviews.

We plan to complete the ‘road map’ before a board and staff retreat in June, discuss implementation of the plan at the retreat, and share the full plan with members later this summer. We look forward to engaging you in bringing the plan to life over the coming four years.

For background information, visit our Strategic Planning webpage.

Upcoming Events

2009 Northeast Farm to School Conference
Burlington, Vermont, May 17-18
This two-day event will provide opportunities to network, learn, and to celebrate the growing farm to school movement through short courses, field trips, and workshops.  Conference Website

Food Policy Council Day
Des Moines, Iowa, October 10
This one-day conference will offer a variety of sessions designed to build participants’ skills to develop and manage local and state food policy councils. More information will be posted to the FPC events page when available.

From Commodity to Community:
Food Politics, Policy, and Projects in the Heartland
October 10-13, Des Moines, IA
CFSC’s 13th Annual Conference will feature workshops, short courses, and field trips on a broad diversity of food and farm issues. Proposals for conference workshops are due May 8.  Conference Website

Member Profiles

Grassroots International
For 25 years, Grassroots International has promoted global justice by partnering with social change organizations, providing more than $13 million in cash support and much more through in-kind donations. Grassroots works to create a just and sustainable world by building alliances with progressive movements, providing grants to Global South partners and joining them in advocating for social change. Their work focuses primarily on land, water, and food as human rights and nourishing the political struggle necessary to achieve these rights.

In coordination with the National Family Farm Coalition, Grassroots International offers a free popular education tool to help community groups, anti-hunger activists, and others understand and advocate for food sovereignty: Food for Thought and Action: A Food Sovereignty Curriculum (Zip file). Currently, Grassroots supports community-led initiatives and movement building in Brazil, Eritrea, Haiti, Mesoamerica, and the Middle East. They also work with activists, allies, and donors in the U.S. to support the movement and to advocate for policies that will build a more just world for all.

Grassroots International website

Jones Valley Urban Farm
Jones Valley Urban Farm (JVUF) is a community-based non-profit that helps Birmingham, Alabama grow organic produce and healthy communities through urban farming and education. Their vision is that they will be a model sustainable urban farm that teaches youth and the Birmingham community about sustainable agriculture and nutrition through outdoor experiential education.

Over the last eight years, JVUF has sold organic produce grown on vacant lots to help support its projects. Their markets include an on-site farm stand, local farmers’ markets, restaurants, and a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) project for low-income community members. JVUF currently operates a three-acre urban farm, a school garden, a community garden, and a 25-acre peri-urban farm.

JVUF offers a variety of educational programs, including an elementary nutrition and gardening field trip called Seed 2 Plate, a high school science class, adult gardening classes, and a community gardening training series called Growing Together. JVUF also works with various community-based groups to address policy changes that help create a more just, local, and sustainable food system.

Jones Valley Urban Farm website

Board Member Profile

Ed Cooney
 has worked on nutrition program and policy issues since 1977, as an anti-hunger advocate and in senior positions at USDA. He became the Executive Director of the Congressional Hunger Center(CHC) in February of 2001. CHC is a leader in the movement to ensure access to nutritious, affordable, and culturally appropriate food as a basic human right for all people. They facilitate leadership development through two programs that bridge the gap between grassroots efforts and national and international public policy, the Bill Emerson National Hunger Fellows Program and the Mickey Leland International Hunger Fellows Program.

Ed is serving his second term on CFSC’s board. He is a member of the Executive Committee and the Policy Committee and assists the Executive Director with fundraising.

Ed is also the Summer Commissioner of the “Older Gentlemen’s Basketball League” at the Jelleff Boys and Girls Club in DC. After recently shaking President Obama’s hand, Ed mentioned that he also sank a three point shot in Baghdad during a teaching experience as a Jesuit volunteer at Baghdad College. The President smiled.

Related link: CFSC board contact list

Staff Profile

Megan Elsener
 was recently hired by CFSC as the Policy Coordinator. Her current work focuses on the 2009 Child Nutrition Reauthorization and obtaining mandatory federal funding for farm to school projects.

Megan has a background in nutrition, public health, and anti-hunger work. After graduating with a B.S. in Nutrition from the University of Cincinnati, she completed a year of national service with AmeriCorps. Following this, she worked with the Capital Area Food Bank in Washington, D.C., running a supplemental nutrition program for low-income senior citizens and coordinating a fresh produce program for low-income D.C. Metropolitan residents. She recently completed her MPH/RD from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Go Tarheels!).

Megan is excited to be working with CFSC and gaining more knowledge about agriculture issues and local foods. And, she is excited to be back in our nation’s capitol with her fiancé – the wedding is May 30th!

Related links:
CFSC Federal Policy Program webpage
CFSC staff contact list

Position Available: Event Planner

CFSC is hiring a part-time Event Planner to help organize our conferences. This position is based in Portland, OR. The application deadline is May 10 or until filled.  Position description (PDF)