From a technical perspective alone, Food Dignity was a complicated project. We had five years, $5 million in funding from USDA/NIFA/AFRI, dozens of diverse people, nine community and academic organizations, and a mix of research, action and education goals.
University of Wyoming (UW) was the awardee, where Christine Porter worked as assistant professor and the project principal investigator (PI). In other words, USDA awarded the money to UW, and then UW allocated that funding to partner organizations, mainly via sub-awards.
The figure below illustrates overall investments in five community-based organizations (CBOs), universities, and project collaboration.
Food Dignity spending of the $4,978,700 budget, by category, 2011-2018
(from Porter & Wechsler, 2018)
The five CBOs with subawards were Dig Deep Farms, Blue Mountain Associates, Feeding Laramie Valley, Whole Community Project, and East New York Farms! These awards averaged $65,000 per year over the five years to each organization. This was 36% of the project budget overall, or 7% of the budget to each organization. This paid for a half-time staff member, minigrant programs, and some expenses such as travel, supplies and stipends. Though grant awards are nearly always paid in arrears, UW paid the subawards to community organizations in advance whenever cash flow issues made that necessary.
The academic partners took 40% of the budget, including in indirect costs (i.e., overhead costs that don’t pay for grant work directly, but go to support the universities generally). Nearly all of this went to Cornell University (18% of the total grant) and to UW (22%). University of California, Davis also later had a small subaward. Ithaca College collaborated without a subaward. Of the amounts that went to universities, half paid for project staffing (including a full time project coordinator, Alyssa Wechsler), 20% funded graduate students, 20% was indirect costs, and the rest went to travel and supplies.
The remaining 24% was invested in the collaboration itself, paying for a community-university liaison position (Gayle Woodsum at Action Resources International/Feeding Laramie Valley) and related costs, and for eight national team meetings.
As PI and project director, Christine had ultimate decision-making control over creating and administering the entire budget. She consulted with each partner in forming it. Also, making subawards transfers most decision making power within a budget to partnering organizations, and within usual scope constraints of any grant award. However, PIs retain the power to change subawards, which means the power relations with partners is never equitable on that front alone.
Porter & Wechsler (2018). Follow the money: Resource allocation and academic supremacy among community and university partners in Food Dignity. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 8(Supp. 1).
Woodsum. (2018). The cost of community-based action research: Examining research access and implementation through the Food Dignity project community support package. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 8(Supp. 1).