In cities across America, tomatoes are growing in patio pots, beans are creeping up garden trellises and chickens are clucking in backyard coops. The success of the urban-farming movement can be attributed to organizations dedicated to fighting for food justice.
A new collaboration between two nonprofits, Growing Power and WhyHunger, aims to enhance the food justice movement across the U.S.
Dubbed the Community Learning Project for Food Justice, the program will connect pairs of organizations to help build relationships, leadership and resource development while supporting community-based learning.
“As the movement for better, healthier, more just food and food systems has been growing, [it’s become clear] that there is so much knowledge that is community-based and so many organizations that can benefit from one another’s knowledge,” explains Siena Chrisman, manager of strategic partnerships and alliances for WhyHunger, which supports grassroots solutions to connect people to nutritious and affordable foods. “Part of the focus of this program is elevating the on-the-ground, community-based work that’s being done.”
Starting in 2011, the Community Learning Project for Food Justice will bring together participant organizations to share knowledge and skills while each nonprofit develops a new program or increases capacities in a certain area. It’s being launched as a 12-month pilot project but Chrisman hopes it will evolve into an ongoing program.
The idea of partnerships is not new in agricultural communities. The Community Learning Project for Food Justice builds on those age-old connections.
“Traditionally, in farming, farmers take care of one another,” says Erika Allen, director of commercial urban agriculture for Growing Power, an organization that promotes the development of community food systems. “One of the goals of the program is to bring organizations together to help each other and, in the process, build national networks and create a stronger [food justice] movement.”
As part of the program, participant pairs will take part in national learning opportunities and participate in trainings, site visits and the annual Growing Food and Justice for All gathering.
Organizations can submit applications to be part of the Community Learning Project for Food Justice. The deadline is Dec. 31, 2010. Although Chrisman declined to provide details on the number of applicants who have applied, she is pleased with the interest in the program.
“I’ve gotten calls from organizations that have been thinking about partnering with other organizations down the street or in a neighboring state,” she notes. “After talking [about the program], some have decided not to apply [for the Community Learning Project] but to go ahead and create a partnership on their own.”
Organizations accepted to be part of the Community Learning Project for Food Justice will receive a small stipend. At the end of the 12-month program, each pair of partnered organizations will submit a single proposal for funding to implement a collaborative project.
Although applications are still coming in, Allen expects that the participants’ goals will range from establishing commercial kitchens and purchasing new (shared) equipment to launching cooperative marketing campaigns and educating others about food-justice issues.
“I’m looking forward to seeing all of the creative projects that come in as part of the program,” says Allen, pointing out that proposals are expected to contribute to each individual organization’s growth as well as the success of the food-justice movement as a whole.
“Some of the communities that are considered by the public to be in the most need of help are the ones that are doing some of the most exciting and dynamic work,” says Chrisman. “We want to build the capacities of those groups, empower them and give them support.”
To learn more about the Community Learning Project for Food Justice or to submit an application to be part of the program, call 212-629-8850 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Applications are being accepted through Dec. 31, 2010.