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Applications Deadlines for this RFP have passed.
“Backed by economies of scale, regionalism is the bridge that breaks down both the local/regional divide and the rural/urban divide. We think it has all the elements so we’re trying a place-based approach. We’re helping communities identify their own strengths.”
Kathleen Merrigan, Deputy Secretary, USDA
Portland, Oregon, March 2011
With the Great Recession hitting Oregon so hard and lingering so long, the staff and trustees at Meyer Memorial Trust have become increasingly concerned about rising food insecurity and hunger and its effects on low-income and rural Oregonians. While MMT has consistently supported Oregon's statewide food bank network, we wanted to explore more systemic food system responses that would help
- increase food security,
- improve nutrition and health, and
- create economic opportunities, particularly in rural communities.
In 2010, MMT commissioned a study about community food system work in Oregon in order to gain a deeper understanding of the role of food in developing secure, healthy and economically vital communities in Oregon and determine where a private foundation investment could catalyze, leverage and/or expand capacity of the community food system movement. Released publicly in February 2011, the report – Community Food Systems In Oregon: Opportunities to Build Capacity for Food Security, Health, and Economic Vitality – identified eight key findings:
- Strong community food system work exists to build upon in a number of local communities and regions.
- Infrastructure is needed to strengthen community food systems, both locally and regionally.
- There is significant potential to create jobs in the food and agriculture sector.
- Community food systems work can address hunger, health, social equity and access issues.
- Efforts to bring fresh food into schools as well as incorporating school gardens and nutrition education can positively impact the next generation.
- Food system efforts will be more successful if they include strong community assessment, leadership and networking.
- These efforts continue to need technical assistance, research and planning.
- Funding opportunities exist for this work (particularly through federal grant streams), but private funding can leverage additional impact.
The Community Food Systems report provided MMT with a deeper understanding of the complexity of work occurring statewide and increased our knowledge of the funding needs. Most importantly, we realized that building on past Responsive and Grassroots Grant investments with a specific RFP would allow several communities and/or regions in Oregon to take their work to the next level.
MMT is seeking proposals from nonprofit organizations in Oregon and Clark County, WA, working on community and/or regional food system projects. Desired projects will significantly improve a community or regional effort’s ability to achieve its goals and objectives and increase community impact with a one-year planning grant or a multi-year implementation grant. Projects must produce significant impact in at least two of three areas of interest:
- increasing food security
- improving health and nutrition
- creating economic opportunity
For this RFP, MMT is using the community food system definition from the University of California at Davis’ Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program to better define the types of complex food system projects we are seeking to fund.
Sustainable Community Food System: a collaborative network that integrates sustainable food production, processing, distribution, consumption and waste management in order to enhance the environmental, economic and social health of a particular place. Farmers, consumers and communities partner to create a more locally based, self-reliant food economy. One of the most important aspects of sustainable community food system projects is that they increase resident participation to achieve the following goals:
- Access to affordable, healthy food for all members of the community
- A stable base of family farms that use sustainable production/agricultural practices and emphasize local inputs;
- Marketing and processing practices that create more direct links between farmers and consumers;
- Improved access by all community members to an adequate, affordable, nutritious diet;
- Food and agriculture-related businesses that create jobs and re-circulate financial capital within the community;
- Improved living and working conditions for farm and food system labor;
- Creation of food and agriculture policies that promote local or sustainable food production, processing and consumption;
- Adoption of dietary behaviors that reflect concern about individual, environmental and community health.
To clarify geographic scope, MMT is looking for food system projects that are at the community (e.g. multi-neighborhood, city, or county) and/or regional (multi-community or multi-county) levels within Oregon and Clark County, WA. We are not looking to fund individual organizations working in isolation or statewide initiatives at this time.
III. Examples of Community/Regional Food System Projects
The MMT Community Food Systems RFP is targeting projects in Oregon and Clark County, Washington, that are working at the local and/or regional food system levels. Ideally, we are looking for complex projects with specific measurable outcomes that touch more than one organization, community group, farm, or food business in a community or region.
Following are a few examples of local/regional Community Food Systems efforts (this list is by no means comprehensive):
- Expanding access to healthy/local foods in a low-income, high-unemployment area by employing residents to develop community gardens and market their produce
- Creating a mutually beneficial partnership between local/regional food producers and emergency food providers that share distribution/transportation resources, increase markets for producers, increase healthy food supply for low-income residents
- Operating a network of community kitchens or commissary kitchens for micro-enterprise development and/or for small businesses to share equipment, space, and costs
- Providing low-income residents with job training, experience, and leadership opportunities in regional agriculture/food service/food industry occupations
- Improving access to healthy foods through supermarket development/partnerships or creating food co-ops in urban or rural “food deserts.”
- Creating a regional “food hub” that addresses aggregation, storage, distribution, marketing, and/or training and education issues for small to mid-size producers as a way to increase customer-base/markets and/or increase access to local/regional food.
- Creating economic opportunity through certification, programs that help farmers transition to sustainable practices, or programs that link food security and food safety.
Further resources and links to existing CFS projects can be found here.
IV. Proposal Requirements
A. Address MMT's Areas of Interest
Projects should address components of the above Sustainable Community Food System definition and at least two of MMT’s three top areas of interest:
- increasing food security
- improving health and nutrition, and;
- creating economic opportunity.
B. Project strengths
Strong proposals will include:
- a case that an MMT investment at this time will bring a successfully developed project to its next level of impact/effectiveness
- multi-sector collaboration (potentially including for-profit partnerships)
- primary benefit to low-income and/or rural communities
- specific strategies, outcomes, and measures of impact
- multiple stakeholders spanning a larger systems-focused geographic area, such as multiple neighborhoods in an urban area, a city, a county, or a multi-county region in a rural part of the state.
- sustainable funding plans post-MMT investment
- ability to use MMT support to leverage additional project funding
Agencies must meet MMT’s basic eligibility requirements.
D. Proposal Submission
Applications for Community Food System planning and implementation grants are accessed from the Apply for a Grant section of GrantIS, MMT's online grant application system, beginning May 2, 2011.
One-year Planning Grants
Applications will open May 2, 2011. Applications will close at 5 p.m., July 1, 2011. The application covers the following:
- Project contact person (person responsible for reporting on project progress to MMT)
- Brief history of lead organization, its programs and services
- Project description and outcomes. Here you will describe the existing conditions of your local/regional food system or food economy. What are the goals and objectives of conducting planning? How will planning be implemented? What planning outcomes is the planning project expected to achieve to support the local/regional food system or food economy?
- Lead organization qualifications, including list of partner organizations that will participate in this planning process
- Project budget, including other funding sources and how MMT funds will be used
Multi-year Implementation grants
Applications will open May 2, 2011. Initial inquiries are due June 1st, 2011. The Initial Inquiry covers the following:
- Project Contact info
- Organization Summary: Summarize the lead organization, its purpose, history, and major programs and activities. Provide the number, ethnicity, age, income levels, and geographic area of the people it serves.
- Financial History: Provide Brief Financial History for past 3 years.
- Project Summary
- Length of Project
- Beginning Date of Project
- Provide a summary of the proposed work and how it relates to Meyer Trust's interest in sustainable community food systems as outlined in the RFP.
- What counties will your project serve and/or take place in?
- Project Budget Summary
- Total Project Cost
- Amount received or pledged thus far
- Amount requested from MMT
- Project Partners: Who are the partners/organizations working on this project?
If you are invited to submit a full proposal after submitting this Inquiry, you will be notified by June 8th. The full proposal will be due on July 1st, 2011. The full proposal covers the following:
- lead organization information
- a description of community need and benefit
- project description (including goals, objectives and outcomes)
- project effectiveness (with a “before” and “after” snapshot related to outcomes)
- key staff qualifications
- list of project partners and what roles they play and commitments they bring to the project,
- lead organization’s current fiscal year budget
- a detailed project budget. Note: If requesting multi-year funding, the project budget should include projected revenue and expenses covering all MMT grant years, plus one additional year post-MMT funding.
If you need assistance with the online grant application process, please e-mail MMT’s grants administration department at grantsadmin [at] mmt [dot] org or call 503-228-5512. If you have a question about your community food system proposal, you can email your question to program officer Sally Yee (sally [at] mmt [dot] org).
- One-year planning grants up to a maximum of $50,000 per project (note: receiving a planning grant is not a guarantee of future funding from MMT for a full project); planning grant funds can be used for staff planning time, consultants, market research, economic analyses, etc.
- MMT will consider one-year planning grants for projects that show promise, but need additional research and planning to be ready for a more significant investment.
- A small number of proposals (3-5) will be chosen for one-year planning grants to create a focused learning opportunity in several communities and/or regions.
- Planning processes should reflect collaborative/multi-organization efforts with one lead organization designated to apply for MMT funds.
- Implementation grants can be one-three years with a maximum award of $300,000 per project.
- MMT will consider multi-year implementation grants for projects that are poised to expand capacity and outcomes in a community or region with a more significant investment.
- A small number of proposals (up to 3) will be chosen for multi-year implementation grants to create a focused learning opportunity in several communities and/or regions.
- Implementation projects should reflect collaborative/multi-organization efforts with one lead organization designated to apply for MMT funds.
RFP issued: May 2, 2011
Initial Inquiry for Implementation grants due: June 1, 2011
Planning Grant apps and Invited Full Proposals for Implementation Grants due: July 1, 2011
Proposal Evaluation: July 2-Oct. 11, 2011
Final Multi-Year and planning Grant decisions: Oct. 11, 2011
MMT reserves the right to deviate from this schedule.
VII. Funding Beyond the Project
Applicants who receive Community Food System grants are eligible to apply for future funding through our Grassroots and Responsive Grants programs, but future funding is not guaranteed. Applicants are advised to seek support from multiple sources since MMT will not be in the position to fully fund projects.
What kind of project is MMT most interested in funding with the Community Food System RFP?
We are interested in funding community and/or regional food system projects that address the components of the Sustainable Community Food System definition listed in the RFP and at least two of three MMT main areas of interest: 1) increasing food security; 2) improving health and nutrition; and 3) creating economic opportunity. Overall, projects are viewed more favorably when:
- the project is important for the community/region it serves,
- the project has a demonstrable outcome that helps the lead and partner organizations meet their goals,
- the effect of the project lasts beyond the period during which grant funds are expended,
- the lead and partner organizations have figured out a way to sustain funding for the project after grant funds are expended (if necessary).
How do we know we are qualified or “ready” to apply?
MMT is looking for a few community and/or regional food system projects that are thoroughly developed and ready to benefit from multi-year implementation funding. We are also interested in funding a few communities who are still in the planning and development stages.
Would someone at MMT meet with us to discuss our proposal ideas?
We typically do not meet with applicants before a proposal is submitted because our program staff is not large enough to accommodate the number of requests we receive. However, if you have a question about your community food system proposal, you can email your question to program officer Sally Yee (sally [at] mmt [dot] org). We want you to know that you do not have to be "known" by us for your proposal to receive a full and fair consideration, nor do you need to personally meet with a staff member or trustee.
Can we present a list of ideas and ask a program officer to choose the one most likely to be funded?
No. Proposals submitted to MMT should be strategic, well-planned, and reflect the partner organizations’ top priority for funding. Your organization's leadership can best judge what your organization and this project most needs. If your proposal reflects strategic thinking and sound planning, it will receive fair and serious consideration.
If multiple community partners are involved, who should apply?
Select one lead nonprofit 501(c)(3) agency or local government entity to handle program and fiscal management. However, funding may be used to support the project activities of other nonprofit community partners. All partner organizations and contact information should be included in the application.
Will multiple proposals be considered from the same community/region?
Yes. However, the strongest proposals will reflect strong coordination and community-based planning that avoids duplication, effectively uses resources, and creates strong and strategic community outcomes.
Can an organization that currently has an active Responsive or Grassroots Grant from MMT apply?
Yes. The Community Food System RFP is a separate funding opportunity. Having received a previous grant from MMT will not influence our decision-making process.
Does having a Community Food System grant from MMT preclude an organization from applying for a future Responsive or Grassroots Grant?
No, organizations who receive a Community Food System grant (especially a smaller planning grant) can apply for a Responsive or Grassroots Grant for the next phase, or a particular aspect, of their work. However, receipt of a Community Food System grant does not guarantee future MMT funding.
How much money should we ask for?
You should be thoughtful about the amount of money you request from MMT and be able to clearly explain your need for and use of funds. Remember that MMT nearly always prefers to be one of several funders and almost never provides 100% of a project's funding.
Our organization is not a 501(c)(3). Can we use another organization’s 501(c)(3) or a fiscal agent to submit a Community Food Systems Grant?
No, we do not permit the use of fiscal agents for this grant opportunity. A 501(c)(3) organization or local government entity would have to adopt the project as its own, with its board of directors/commissioners assuming legal and fiscal responsibility, and submit its own application as lead for the project.
Does an organization need to be a previous MMT grant recipient to apply for this RFP?
No, lead/partner organizations do not need to be previous MMT grant recipients.
- A good source to review similar complex food system projects is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Community Food Projects (CFP) Grant Program.
- Specific examples of funded CFP projects (including both planning and implementation grants) can be found at in the USDA Community Food Projects database.
- USDA’s definition and examples of regional “food hub” projects can be found in Regional Food Hubs: Linking producers to new markets.
- A webinar hosted by Appalachia Funders Network on Local Food Economy titled Impact of Local Foods within the Appalachia Ohio Regional Economy also has useful information and examples.
Following are some additional sources for background and examples of regional food system efforts:
- Mapping the NYC Regional Food System
- Bringing the Farm to Market: Puget Sound Regional Food System Project
- Sustainable Work: Regional Food Systems
- Growing Local: Expanding the Western North Carolina Food and Farm Economy
- Rural Policy Research Institute: Rural Futures Lab
- The Appalachian Center for Economic Networks: Business Incubation, Venture Loans, E-Commerce and Specialty Food Production