Investing in Community Linkages to Improve our Food System

Project Overview

Project Type: Sustainable Community Innovation
Funds awarded in 2010: $10,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2012
Region: Southern
State: Texas
Principal Investigator:
Jay Crossley
Houston Tomorrow

Annual Reports


Not commodity specific


  • Sustainable Communities: community planning, local and regional food systems, public participation, public policy, community development

    Proposal abstract:

    Following the 2008 Food & Sustainable Prosperity Conference that brought together a broad range of people associated with the Houston region food system, the Houston Food Policy Workgroup formed to carry the region's momentum for addressing important food policy issues.

    The mission of the Houston Food Policy Workgroup (HFPW) is to nurture the growth of a sustainable local food system, accessible to all, through education, collaboration, communication, and creation of a food policy council for the Houston region. The workgroup, hosted by Houston Tomorrow, is designed to work toward its own demise as its principle goal is to build a sustainable food policy council for the 13-county Houston region sanctioned and driven by the region's agricultural producers, concerned consumers, food activists, academic institutions, urban farmers, and local government stakeholders.

    The Sustainable Community Innovation Grant (SCIG) will be used for calendar years 2011-2012 to fulfill a major component of the HFPW's Houston Regional Food Assessment (HRFA). SCIG funds will support:
    • overseeing and managing continual outreach by the field team; • conducting 3-5 individual community food assessments in rural areas; • contributing datasets and qualitative information for the production of a Local Food Guide, • holding auxiliary networking and information events in rural locations in the project region, • developing a distribution and education plan that takes into consideration other information from the HRFA, and provides the HFPW with guidance on how to take the next logical steps toward addressing high priority policy issues.

    Auxiliary networking and information events supported by the ICLIFS Project will serve to bridge existing rural networks to the project, incorporate the perspectives and lessons learned from other relevant projects in the region, and enable greater accessibility of organizations and individuals especially in rural communities to participate in this project.

    Other grant and in-kind contributions will fund the food assessments in urban areas component and will also cover the public health, natural food assets, food infrastructure, and externalities study, which is the first major part of the HRFA. The second major part of the HRFA is the individual community food assessments to be conducted in 15-20 rural and urban areas of 13-county project region. ICLIFS will implement 3-5 rural community food assessments among other activities.

    To this end, the HFPW has already begun to tackle some pressing issues in the Houston regional food system. The workgroup actively monitors bills in the Texas Legislature and local issues, for instance, for instance working with the Harris County Appraisal District to grant alternative valuations (tax exemption) for properties less than 5 acres that are used for urban farming. The workgroup continues to advocates business, non-profit, academic, and government networking and participation in policy discussions, and has recently received formal letters of support and levels of involvement in the HRFA from the Houston Galveston Area Council, the Metropolitan Planning Organization and Council of Governments for the Houston region, and non-profit entities Houston Tomorrow, a public policy think tank, and Recipe for Success, a foundation offering nutrition education targeting children.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The Investing in Community Linkages to Improve our Food System Project has 3 important objectives. The project objectives are:
    1. Develop a feasible framework to conduct community food assessments in rural areas of the 13-county region and according to guidance from the USDA Economic Resource Services Community Food Security Assessment Toolkit.

    2. Hold community food talk events to expand communications, share information, provide networking opportunity, and develop business relationships. Create a regularly scheduled forum that brings stakeholders together to discuss issues of common concern.

    3. Complete individual community food assessments with broad local support from farm businesses, food distribution organizations, faith-based organizations, advocacy groups, government agencies, agricultural extension and academic entities, and other groups with invested interest.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.