mThis has been a busy week here in Washington DC. I was flown up here as a Grant Review Panelist for USDA and NIFA’s Community Food Project grant program.  What a great learning experience to be involved in and responsible for deciding which projects will be ranked high enough to be considered for grants.

I was with 12 wonderful folks from across the country with a wide range of culture and backgrounds to form this year’s panel.  Prior to arriving we all spent 6 weeks reading and evaluating proposals at our homes, then submitting our evaluations to the NIFA project Director.  Once submitted we were all provided transportation to Washington, DC where for three days diligently discussed, evaluated and ranked all the proposals before us.  They were long days but filled with good conversation and discussion and it really felt good to all of us to have been asked to play this important role in deciding the priority ranking of over 85 grant proposals.

The review panel consisted of a great cross section of academia, food security coordinators and administrators.  I and another colleague were the two ‘grassroots’ panelists who were actual growers as well as having been involved in community food projects in our states.  Naturally he and I became friends and formed a nice relationship.  All the panelists were passionate about food security and it felt great to be apart of this group.

I will look forward to offering advice to those who are writing grants, as I now have first hand knowledge of what goes on behind the scenes in evaluating them, understanding the strengths and determining the weaknesses and how each grant could be strengthened.  Good knowledge to have!