May 25, 2018
Wyoming’s first USDA Community Food Project Grant Award wnables Feeding Laramie Valley to expand program services and long-term planning.
“The third time turned out to be the charm,” says Feeding Laramie Valley’s founder, Gayle Woodsum, of the multiple attempts she made to secure one of the highly competitive USDA Community Food Project grant awards, “and I think it was a combination of factors that finally turned things in our favor for becoming a grant recipient.”
On average, only about 10% of applications are funded in any given year. USDA-NIFA’s Community Food Project Competitive Grant Program is authorized through the United States Farm Bill, and is designed to serve as a one-time infusion of funds to help community-based food security and food systems efforts become self-sustaining.
The grants are designed for programs that are one to four years in length, with $400,000 being the maximum award amount. When Feeding Laramie Valley submitted a successful grant application for the maximum funding level, it was also the first one to be awarded in the State of Wyoming.
One of the conditions of the grant, designed to ensure full community engagement, is a 100% match to the grant funds from Feeding Laramie Valley in the form of cash and in-kind donations. According to Woodsum, “This grant both supports and challenges us to successfully implement a four-year, $800,000 program to solidify Albany County’s efforts to increase food sovereignty and security, reduce poverty, and take full advantage of the leadership potential of people who live and have lived with the problems Feeding Laramie Valley is working to address.” She goes on to add that, “Most importantly, this grant is designed to bring a variety of individuals, organizations and businesses together in collaborative efforts that improve the health and wellness of the entire community. Having spent the past eight years pursuing sustainable local food security and equality as a community-led effort has established Albany County and Feeding Laramie Valley as having long-term commitments to essential health and wellness for everyone.”
Since 2009, Feeding Laramie Valley has been developing and implementing programs that annually produce, collect and distribute — at no charge to recipients — thousands of pounds of locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables to hundreds of people in Albany County who do not have sufficient access to healthy food. Together with Laramie Parks and Recreation, Laramie Conservation District and Laramie Local Foods, the organization helped create Laramie’s first community garden in a city park. Feeding Laramie Valley has developed dozens of vegetable gardens in the yards of community members wanting to share their land for local food production that benefits people living with food insecurity; provides and supports individual backyard gardens for people living with chronic illnesses; and is entering its third year of partnering with Albany County Fairgrounds in developing an acre of fruits and vegetables growing capacity using traditional crop management practices along with raised bed and high tunnel season-extension methods. The organization also partners with the University of Wyoming on statewide and national community-based action research projects.
Five years ago, Feeding Laramie Valley leased the historic Fort Sanders building in LaBonte Park from the City of Laramie, gaining a home base for community-oriented activities that includes gardens now surrounding the building, hosts an annual community celebration of local foods, and is home to a free summer lunch and activities program for children of all ages.
The Community Food Project grant enables Feeding Laramie Valley to move forward with expansion of its existing programs (including increasing food access, gardening, nutrition and cooking education), as well as aid in the start of a new phase of investment in Albany County, including plans for creating a local food hub that allows for community expansion into large scale local food production and distribution, and the creation of a pipeline for supporting new farmers and ranchers as well as food-based entrepreneurial businesses.
According to Woodsum, Feeding Laramie Valley thrives as a result of guidance, collaboration and support from program participants, community members, ranchers and farmers, like-minded nonprofit organizations and agencies, and local businesses. The organization invites inquiries of all kinds for more information about its ongoing mission and opportunities opening up through the new grant.