Saturday, July 02, 2005

Community Nutrition Institute's CFNP work "winding down"

The Community Nutrition Institute's online periodical CFNP Report includes a helpful menu of news about food assistance appropriations, obesity policy, and helpful advice for grantees and potential grantees of the federal government's small progressive Community Food and Nutrition Program. The latest issue includes a kind word of introduction by Barbara Vauthier about Sheila Foley -- the hard-working organizational talent who has backed up Rodney Leonard's leadership of the small institute for decades, and who was den mother to a series of young food policy advocates (including me in 1990-1992) who passed through the role of editing the institute's late weekly, Nutrition Week. Vauthier's article also includes (in somewhat buried form) the sad news that CNI's work with the Community Food and Nutrition Program may be winding down.

Who is Sheila Foley and how does she know so much about the Community Food and Nutrition Program?

In June 2002, a request for applications was issued by the Office of Community Services (OCS) for a three-year cooperative agreement to “identify the characteristics, practices, and needs” of the network of agencies providing services to low-income people under the Community Food and Nutrition Program (CFNP). The Community Nutrition Institute (CNI), a Washington D.C.-based non-profit with a 30-year history of involvement with CFNP, answered the call.

Rod Leonard, founder and Executive Director of CNI, knew exactly what his organization could deliver, “Resources, information, technical assistance and networking,” he said; and the Nationwide Initiative was born. By February 2003, a cooperative agreement was in place between CNI and OCS, grant funds began to flow, and services were initiated.

In March 2003, the first issue of the CFNP Report was emailed to 75 people and included articles on the reauthorization of child nutrition programs, produce giveaway pilot projects at schools, implementation of food stamp improvement and expansion provisions, farm-to-school projects, and the annual updating of federal child nutrition income eligibility guidelines. Since that time, Zy Weinberg, principal writer and editor of the newsletter, has provided a wealth of information on food issues and added features such as grantee profiles, the enormously popular “Small Bites,” and the “Obesity Round-Up,” examples of which are included in this issue.

Today, there are more than a thousand subscribers who further distribute the newsletter to additional thousands of readers. Joanne Heidkamp of the Vermont Campaign to End Childhood Hunger wrote Sheila, “I just want to let you know how much I appreciate the CFNP Reports you send out. I realized I hadn’t deleted them since summer, because there’s so much useful information.”

In April 2003, CNI’s CFNP web site at
was initiated with “the most complete information currently available on state formula grantee and sub-grantee activities,” according to website developer, Shacy Rivera. Since that time, the website has been expanded almost continuously and includes archived issues of CFNP Report, a Resource page with funding and information links, a separate Obesity Resource Section, a Nutrition Assistance Question and Answer Forum, and other features.

A “What’s New” section of the website highlights important news, such as the release of the CFNP request for applications (RFA), the current status of CFNP appropriations, and program advice such as when reports are due. CNI tracks web site usage on a monthly basis by the number of actual visitors to the site rather than hits, which may be random in nature. Usage peaked in April this year with 8,440 visitors during the month. Jim Couts of the Appalachian Nutrition Network emailed Shacy, “I just spent time reviewing all the potential sources of funding you list. I hope you know what a wonderful resource you folks provide.”

CNI publicizes the release of the RFA for CFNP discretionary funds each year, including an analysis of the request and tips on how to write a competitive proposal. One-on-one assistance is offered to any eligible applicant who requests it. Technical assistance also includes helping funded grantees with project operations and reporting requirements. This year, CNI staff answered 61 requests for assistance on the RFA and critiqued 11 proposals, mostly for applicants new to the CFNP competition. Dana Harvey of the Environmental Science Institute wrote Zy, “Just wanted to thank you and your staff again for your assistance today – you all really came through.”

CNI also drafted Reports to Congress on the CFNP for fiscal years 2002 and 2003, providing detailed information on every state formula and discretionary project funded during those years. CNI reviewed state plans, discretionary applications, and progress reports for all grantees and sub-grantees throughout the nation, collecting further information directly during site visits to grantees and by interviews conducted on the phone and by email.

In February 2005, CNI hosted the first national CFNP workshop in conjunction with the National Anti-Hunger Policy Conference in Washington, D.C. Representatives of more than 30 grantees from around the nation gathered to discuss how CFNP helps to improve food and nutrition resources for low-income individuals and communities through improved coordination, expansion of child nutrition programs, and innovative solutions to hunger.

CNI’s CFNP Nationwide Initiative is winding down; funding ceases at the end of September. CNI is honored to have worked with and served the active and extensive network that the Community Food and Nutrition Program has developed over the years. For thousands of low-income Americans, CFNP is clearly making a difference.

Who is Sheila Foley? For more than twenty years, Sheila has been CNI’s link to agencies around the U.S. that help low-income people. Sheila is circulation manager for CFNP Report, copy editor, technical advisor, and “friendly voice” of CNI, and over the years she has heard just about all there is to know about CFNP.

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