Food pantries need healthy food options. Local farmers produce the most nutrient-dense food and are no more than a few miles away from the nearest hunger-relief organization. The Real Food Fund exists to pay our local farmers for what they do best and get nutritious food to our neighbors that need it the most. This is a program long overdue in the State of Connecticut and we’re excited to bring it to Fairfield, Litchfield, and New Haven counties.
Together let’s support local farmers, service organizations, and upgrade our local food system to better support our community.
First Two Years 2022-2024
The program is being launched on funding from the Local Food Purchase Assistance Cooperative Program which utilizes USDA funding at the state level. The Connecticut Department of Agriculture is distributing and managing this special grant opportunity in hopes and expectation that this program can be transformed into a permanent part of our State food system plan.
We are calling on residents, donors, donor funds, and grant providers from Fairfield, Litchfield, and New Haven counties to support the development and sustainability of the Real Food Fund moving forward. A priority will be placed on new and beginning farmers, BIPOC (Black, indigenous, person of color), LGBTQ+, and women-run farms. Our goal will be to raise $150K a year into the Real Food Fund on an annual basis to continue supporting yearly contracts for our local farm-to-pantry network.
Even more exciting is the possibility to connect the Real Food Fund as a built-in contract for our Small Farm Model expansion which will be kicking off in 2023. Stay tuned for more exciting details!
Want to Join the Action?
Fairfield, Litchfield, and New Haven farmers are invited to express interest in the Real Food Fund (RFF). A limited number of farms will be added to this project in 2022 as w. Farms are invited to express interest in participating by completing the interest form so that they may be considered for participation in this or future seasons.
Before submitting an interest form, read this FAQ. When you are ready, email our Executive Director Sean Fitzpatrick at email@example.com for an initial conversation.
Real Food Fund FAQ
Connecticut farmers are invited to express interest in a new Real Food CT program, the Real Food Fund (RFF).
The purpose of the program is to empower farmers to partner with hunger relief projects in order to make delicious, nutritious and culturally appropriate food grown by regional farmers available to people who otherwise may not have access. The fund will pay farmers, in advance, for this food. Farms will be matched to community-based hunger relief projects so that those projects gain access to the locally grown foods that the community they serve needs and deserves. This program will be initially funded by the USDA Local Food Assistance Cooperative Agreement Program* (LFPAC). The Connecticut Department of Agriculture has coordinated the funding with distribution services like Real Food CT. The purpose of the LFPAC program is to maintain and improve food and agricultural supply chain resiliency through:
1. Supporting local and socially disadvantaged producers through building and expanding economic opportunity, and
2. Establishing and broadening partnerships with producers, the food distribution community, and local food networks to ensure the distribution of fresh and nutritious foods to under- served communities.
How can a farm participate?
The first step is to fill out the online interest form. If your farm meets the eligibility criteria, some- one will be in touch to speak with you and learn more about your farm and your interest in participating in the program.
What farms are eligible to participate?
In our first year, we are prioritizing: – Minority owned farms in Connecticut that are in synch with program funding goals of the USDA
*Your farm needs to meet some but not all of these criteria to qualify for participation.
What is the timeline?
April 1, 2022 – Priority deadline for farms to submit interest forms April 2022 – Committee review of interest forms June 2022 – USDA Funding Timeline Finalized June 2022 – Matches made between farms and hunger relief projects and amounts of contracts to farms agreed upon
July 2022 onward – Payments made to participating farms Q3 and Q4 2022 – Farms grow and supply food to hunger relief projects
What is a “priority deadline”?
Interest forms that are completed before the priority deadline of 4/1/2022 will be reviewed first. The interest form will remain open, and submissions received after the priority deadline will be reviewed on a rolling basis if funding is available to support more farms.
How many farms will be able to participate?
We expect that there will be sufficient funding and hours of technical assistance to support up to 10 farms in 2022.
Who will review the interest forms and make decisions about which farms are selected to participate?
The RFF Advisory Council will review interest forms and make decisions on which farms are selected. To see who is on the Advisory Council, go to our website. (Board member, Farmer, Hunger Relief Organization, Stakeholder non-profit, Food policy person, Land Trust person, Danbury resident, Bridgeport resident)
What counties are included in this project?
In 2022, farms and hunger relief organizations must operate in one of these counties to be considered for participation: Fairfield, New Haven, and Litchfield. It is possible that with increased funding that area may expand in future years.
What are the expectations of a participating farm?
Participating farms are expected to meet in early 2022 with RFF organizers and representatives from the hunger relief projects with whom they are matched to determine what food to grow, what amount to grow, and how the food will get to the hunger relief organization. During the season, farms are expected to abide by this agreement as much as possible, knowing that crop failures and other unexpected challenges are likely and that plans may need to change. Small changes (like delivering peas instead of lettuce) can be made with verbal consent between the hunger relief project and the farm, while bigger adjustments (like switching which hunger relief project the farm will work with) will need to be discussed and approved with RFF coordinators.
What is the benefit to the farm?
The farm will be paid an agreed upon amount of money in advance, ensuring the security of that income.
How large or small will the growing agreements be?
Individual agreements can be made from $500 to $20,000 depending on the size of the farm operation, the need of the hunger relief project, and availability of funding.
Which hunger relief projects will farms be matched with?
The RFF’s Advisory Council will work with Real Food CT staff to identify projects that are a good match for participating farms looking to build new community relationships. Farms that already have relationships with hunger relief projects are also encouraged to apply to support the growth of those relationships.
What is a “hunger relief project”?
It is anything that gets food to people experiencing food insecurity. Some examples are food pantries, soup kitchens, prepared meal services, and grocery bag deliveries. These could be run by all types of groups, including non-profit organizations, grassroots networks of volunteers, youth programs, social service agencies, or churches.