WASHINGTON – U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Julián Castro, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary C. Peters, and Congressman John Conyers, Jr., announced the allocation of $8.9 million from the Community Development Block Grant Declared Disaster Recovery Fund (DDR) to the City of Detroit. The funds will help Detroit become better prepared for future floods and other natural disasters, and assist with planning and implementation costs associated with resilient projects in the Brightmoor, Mt. Elliot and McDougall-Hunt neighborhoods, stemming from August 2014 flooding damage.

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WASHINGTON – The U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) announced that it is seeking grant proposals to award up to $700,000 in grant funding for projects that promote the development of innovative and successful Native American firms that are eligible for assistance under the SBA’s 7(j) Management and Technical Assistance Program.

The SBA expects to award three to seven grants to provide funding opportunities for Native American Micro Enterprise Business Services.

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ORLANDO, Fla., April 1, 2015 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that USDA has awarded $31.5 million in funding to local, state, and national organizations to support programs that help participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) increase their purchase of fruits and vegetables. Recognizing that all Americans fall well short of the servings of fruits and vegetables recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the grants will test incentive strategies to help SNAP participants better afford fruits and vegetables. These grants were made through the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) program authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill.

The Secretary, who made the announcement at the Freshfields Farm market in Orlando, said, "Encouraging low income families to put more healthy food in their grocery baskets is part of USDA's ongoing commitment to improving the diet and health of all Americans." Vilsack continued, "These creative community partnerships also benefit regional food producers and local economies along with SNAP participants."

FINI is a joint effort between USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and USDA's Food and Nutrition Service, which oversees SNAP and has responsibility for evaluating the effectiveness of the incentive projects. FINI brings together stakeholders from distinct parts of the food system and fosters understanding of how they might improve the nutrition and health status of SNAP households. The awards under FINI represent a variety of projects, including relatively small pilot projects, multi-year community-based projects, and larger-scale multi-year projects.

USDA is funding projects in 26 states for up to 4 years, using funds from FY2014 and FY2015. USDA will issue a separate request for applications in FY16, and in subsequent years. Fiscal year 2014 and 2015 awards are:

Pilot projects (up to $100,000, not to exceed 1 year):

  • Yolo County Department of Employment and Social Services, Woodland, Calif., $100,000
  • Heritage Ranch, Inc., Honaunau, Hawaii, $100,000
  • Backyard Harvest, Inc., Moscow, Idaho, $10,695
  • City of Aurora, Aurora, Ill., $30,000
  • Forsyth Farmers' Market, Inc., Savannah, Ga., $50,000
  • Blue Grass Community Foundation, Lexington, Ky., $47,250
  • Lower Phalen Creek Project, Saint Paul, Minn., $45,230
  • Vermont Farm-to-School, Inc., Newport, V.T., $93,750
  • New Mexico Farmers Marketing Association, Santa Fe, N.M., $99,999
  • Santa Fe Community Foundation, Santa Fe, N.M., $100,000
  • Guilford County Department of Health and Human Services, Greensboro, N.C., $99,987
  • Chester County Food Bank, Exton, Pa., $76,543
  • Nurture Nature Center, Easton, Pa., $56,918
  • Rodale Institute, Kutztown, Pa., $46,442
  • Rhode Island Public Health Institute, Providence, R.I., $100,000
  • San Antonio Food Bank, San Antonio, Texas, $100,000

Multi-year community-based projects (up to $500,000, not to exceed 4 years):

  • Mandela Marketplace, Inc., Oakland, Calif., $422,500
  • Market Umbrella, New Orleans, La., $378,326
  • Maine Farmland Trust, Belfast, Maine, $249,816
  • Farmers Market Fund, Portland, Ore., $499,172
  • The Food Trust, Philadelphia, Pa., $500,000
  • Utahns Against Hunger, Salt Lake City, Utah, $247,038
  • Opportunity Council, Bellingham, Wash., $301,658

Multi-year large-scale projects ($500,000 or greater, not to exceed 4 years):

  • Ecology Center, Berkeley, Calif., $3,704,287
  • Wholesome Wave Foundation Charitable Ventures, Inc., Bridgeport, Conn., $3,775,700
  • AARP Foundation, Washington, D.C., $3,306,224
  • Florida Certified Organic Growers and Consumers, Gainesville, Fla., $1,937,179
  • Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance, Boston, Mass., $3,401,384
  • Fair Food Network, Ann Arbor, Mich., $5,171,779
  • International Rescue Committee, Inc., New York, N.Y., $564,231
  • Washington State Department of Health, Tumwater, Wash., $5,859,307

The announcement featured Marty Mesh, Executive Director of Florida Certified Organic Growers and Consumers (FOG). With FINI funding, FOG will expand its Fresh Access Bucks program, which allows SNAP participants to double their food dollars for fresh, Florida-grown fruits and vegetables at farmers markets around the state.

An evaluation of the funded projects will help policymakers determine how best to provide incentives to SNAP participants to increase healthy purchases. Priority was given to projects that develop innovative or improved benefit redemption systems that can be replicated, use direct-to-consumer marketing, show previous success implementing nutrition incentive programs that connect low-income consumers with agricultural producers, provide locally- or regionally-produced fruits and vegetables, and are located in underserved communities.

All FINI projects must (1) have the support of a state SNAP agency; (2) increase the purchase of fruits and vegetables by SNAP participants by providing incentives at the point of purchase; (3) operate through authorized SNAP retailers; (4) agree to participate in the comprehensive FINI program evaluation; (5) ensure that the same terms and conditions apply to purchases made by both SNAP participants and non-participants; and (6) include effective and efficient technologies for benefit redemption systems that may be replicated in other states and communities.

The FINI program is authorized and funded by the 2014 Farm Bill. The Farm Bill builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past six years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for taxpayers. Since enactment, USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America. For more information, visit

SNAP — the nation's first line of defense against hunger — helps put food on the table for millions of families experiencing hardship. The program has never been more critical to the fight against hunger. Over 60 percent of SNAP participants are children, elderly, or individuals with disabilities, and 42 percent of participants live in households in which at least one adult is working but still cannot afford to put sufficient food on the table. SNAP benefits provided help to millions who lost their jobs during the Great Recession. For many, SNAP benefits provide temporary assistance, with the average new applicant remaining on the program 12 months.

Through federal funding and leadership for research, education and extension programs, NIFA focuses on investing in science and solving critical issues impacting people's daily lives and the nation's future. More information can be found on the NIFA website.

GDF represents a client building a public farm market in Shelbyville, Indiana.  News of this initiative will be forthcoming.

The Rhode Island Foundation is now accepting applications for the 2015 Rhode Island Innovation Fellowship, an annual program to stimulate solutions to the state’s challenges.

Made possible through the vision and generosity of philanthropists Letitia and John Carter, the program will award two applicants up to $300,000 over three years to develop, test and implement innovative ideas that have the potential to dramatically improve any area of life in Rhode Island.

“This initiative enhances Rhode Island’s reputation as a place of innovation and ingenuity. Letitia and John Carter are to be applauded for having the vision to invest in encouraging bold thinkers to bring their ideas to life,” said Neil Steinberg, the Foundation’s president and CEO.

Preference will be given to proposals that promise the greatest good for the greatest number of Rhode Islanders, a small idea that has big potential to be built to scale or new approaches to long-standing, intractable challenges.

“Letitia and I strongly believe in the potential of creative thinking and exceptional originality to power Rhode Island’s growth. We are excited to see the proposals that this platform for change generates,” said John Carter.

Although applicants do not have to be residents of Rhode Island when they apply, they must commit to living in Rhode Island during the term of the Fellowship if selected.

The deadline to apply is Fri., Dec. 12. The one-page, initial application asks applicants to summarize their proposed innovation in no more than 150 words and to describe how it would benefit Rhode Islanders.

In February 2015, the selection panel will ask a group of semi-finalists to submit a more detailed application and a short video. The Foundation expects to announce the winners in April.

Steinberg will chair the selection committee. The other members are Patricia Flanagan, Professor of Pediatrics, Chief of Clinical Affairs, Hasbro Children’s Hospital; Ted Nesi, Political and Economic Reporter, WPRI; Lisa Utman Randall, Executive Director, Jamestown Arts Center; Dan Shedd, President, Taylor Box Company; Rosanne Somerson, Interim President, Rhode Island School of Design; and Don Stanford, Chief Innovation Officer, GTECH.

This will be the fourth round of funding. Previous rounds generated more than 900 applications. Soren Ryherd and Allan Tear received the inaugural Fellowships in 2012.

Ryherd’s “The Retail Project” has created three on-line stores to date, with the goal of opening brick and mortar stores in Rhode Island neighborhoods.

Tear's "RallyRI" initiative is building platforms to help entrepreneurs launch start-ups in sectors such as art and design, food and beverage and advanced manufacturing.

The 2013 Fellows are Adrienne Gagnon and Dr. Lynn Taylor.

Gagnon’s “Innovation by Design” proposal will help foster the next generation of Rhode Island innovators by sending out mobile design labs to school yards throughout Rhode Island in order to engage students in free, hands-on design programs that will improve our communities.

Taylor’s project, “Rhode Island Defeats Hep C,” aims to make Rhode Island the first state to eradicate the Hepatitis C virus infection using a comprehensive approach that includes increasing awareness, rapid testing, linkage to health care, building infrastructure for a sustainable model and evaluation.

The 2014 Fellows are Amy Bernhardt and David Dadekian.

Bernhardt’s project, "Colorfast," will create a state-of-the-art research and manufacturing pilot facility for the design and production of digitally printed textiles.

Dadekian’s project, the "Eat Drink Rhode Island Central Market," would house a number of food and drink related businesses, including a public market, commercial production and processing facilities, and an educational component.

The Rhode Island Foundation is the largest and most comprehensive funder of nonprofit organizations in Rhode Island.  In 2013, the Foundation made grants of more than $31 million to organizations addressing the state’s most pressing issues and needs of diverse communities. Through leadership, fundraising and grantmaking activities, often in partnership with individuals and organizations, the Foundation is helping Rhode Island reach its true potential.

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) today awarded $75 million to help public housing and Housing Choice Voucher residents across the country connect with local services to improve their education and employment and to put them on a path to self-sufficiency.

Funded through HUD's Family Self-Sufficiency Program (FSS), these grants allow public housing agencies (PHAs) to work with social service agencies, community colleges, businesses, and other local partners to help public housing residents and individuals participating in HUD's Housing Choice Voucher Program to increase their education or gain marketable skills that will enable them to obtain employment and advance in their current work. In 2014, Congress combined funding for the Public Housing FSS (PH FSS) and Housing Choice Voucher FSS (HCV FSS) programs into one program serving both populations.

As HUD approaches its 50th anniversary next year, HUD Secretary Julián Castro is focused on advancing policies that create opportunities for all Americans, including helping families and individuals secure quality housing by connecting housing efforts to education and job opportunities.

"HUD connects folks to opportunity," said Castro. "These grants will link people to the computer access, financial literacy, job training, childcare and other tools they need to compete and succeed in the workplace. Every American deserves access to the skills and resources necessary to become self-sufficient."

HUD's FSS Program helps local public housing authorities to hire service coordinators who work directly with residents to connect them with programs and services that already exist in the local community. These Service Coordinators also build relationships with the network of local service providers so as to more effectively serve the residents. The program encourages innovative strategies that link public housing and Housing Choice Voucher assistance with other resources to enable participating families to find jobs, increase earned income, reduce or eliminate the need for rental and/or welfare assistance, and make progress toward achieving economic independence and housing self-sufficiency.

Participants in the program sign a five-year contract that requires the head of the household to obtain employment and that no member of the FSS family is receiving cash welfare assistance at the end of the five-year term. Families in the FSS program have an interest-bearing escrow account established for them. The amount credited to the family's escrow account is based on increases in the family's earned income during the term of the FSS contract. If the family successfully completes its FSS contract, the family receives the escrow funds that it can use for any purpose, including improving credit scores, paying educational expenses, or a down-payment on a home.

The Family Self Sufficiency (FSS) Program is a long-standing resource for increasing economic security and self-sufficiency among participants. HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research issued Evaluation of FSS Program: Prospective Study in 2011 that evaluated the effectiveness of the FSS Program. Conducted from 2005 to 2009, the study showed that financial benefits are substantial for participants who remain in and complete the program. An earlier study found that individuals who participated in the FSS program fared better financially than those who did not enroll in the program. HUD is currently conducting a longitudinal study on the program, with the first set of results expected in 2018.

The Taproot Foundation makes grants of professional consulting services, called Service Grants, through their Service Grant Program.  Every Service Grant is delivered pro bono by a team of 5-6 business professionals who volunteer their time and expertise to help a nonprofit in their community.

High potential nonprofits in the ChicagoLos AngelesNew York CitySan Francisco, and Washington, D.C. metro areas can apply to get the tools and services needed to strengthen their organizations and serve in their communities.

Application available at



BALTIMORE, MD --  Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Baltimore City, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the Chesapeake Bay Trust announce a brand new, unique opportunity for community groups, design firms, and non-profit and private partners to showcase innovative ideas for transforming vacant lots in Baltimore City. Many urban centers are faced with significant challenges posed by vacant lots. Vacant areas can be unaesthetic, bring down property values, have human health and safety impacts, and negatively impact communities.

Through the Growing Green Initiative, Baltimore City is pioneering a new “Green Pattern Book” (to be released) designed to provide communities and non-profits with ideas for how, working with City assistance, to improve these properties. With this competition, teams of community groups and designers will have the opportunity to use the Green Pattern Book to develop creative greening projects for vacant land in their communities as well as reduce and treat stormwater runoff. The top ideas will be selected as winners, and all winners will be provided with the resources to fully design and construct their winning ideas.

Deadline to enter the competition is August 15, 2014. To view the RFP click here.

To start an application, click here.