May 22, 2022

Chicago Region Food System Fund awards grants

CHICAGO — The Chicago Region Food System Fund continues its funding to support a resilient food system by awarding a new round of grants to 501(c)(3) organizations capable of supporting the work of other organizations engaged in food system-related response to the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt the Chicago food system, the grant recipients will collaborate with non-profits, community organizations, faith communities, farmers and growers, food pantries, and other frontline organizations to enhance resilience, innovation and transformation in the system.

The grant recipients are Advocates for Urban Agriculture, $250,000; Chicago Food Policy Action Council, $250,000; Faith In Place, $250,000; HEAL Food Alliance, $250,000; Illinois Stewardship Alliance, $250,000; and Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, $250,000.

A central tenet of Advocates for Urban Agriculture’s existing re-granting effort is reparative justice: supporting the growers who are breathing life into communities despite historic processes of exclusion and funding inequity.

Chicago Food Policy Action Council’s on-the-ground partners from across Chicago will use these funds to support a more just food system in their communities.

Projects will support groups to develop interconnected relationships with partners, as well as infrastructure, such as urban agriculture, cold storage, transportation and processing.

Faith in Place will focus on supporting faith communities who are working to create sustainable solutions to increase access to nutritious and local food.

HEAL Food Alliance will be re-granting to organizations committed to transforming an extractive and exploitative food system into one that is regenerative and equitable, particularly organizations challenging the “business as usual” model of employment of food workers.

The Illinois Stewardship Alliance Farmer Resiliency Initiative will help Illinois farms invest in collaborative relationships and critical infrastructure to scale up local food production and adopt regenerative practices.

The Little Village Environmental Justice Organization will support local grassroots Chicagoland organizations that are at the forefront of food justice and food sovereignty in their communities.

LVEJO will continue to build relationships with organizations as they work to transform their local food systems and to continue to learn from one another.

“Partnering with trusted organizations to move grant money into communities quickly and efficiently is key to supporting a local food system in a region as large and complex as Chicago,” said Jose Oliva, Chicago Region Food System Fund consulting director.

“The six organizations we’re working with this fall and winter are able to identify both continuing impacts from COVID-19 and points within the system in need of investment to benefit both communities and the food system as a whole.”

Since June 2020, the Chicago Region Food System Fund has focused on COVID-19 related hunger and business disruption in the local food system — from production to processing to distribution to consumption — in an area approximately 200 miles from Chicago, about a day’s drive to and from the city.

Priority has been given to organizations producing food in and supplying food to communities of color. Fresh Taste, fiscally sponsored by Forefront, manages the fund.

Including the $1.5 million in grants, the Chicago Region Food System Fund has distributed a total of $8,417,150 to 105 grantees. Originally planned as a series of granting rounds in 2020 and early 2021, the fund continues its grant-making with the new announcement.

Details about the next round of funding — including application details, timeline and eligibility information — will be announced in the coming months. The fund is online at ChicagoRegionFoodFund.org.

“Working collaboratively and focusing on the food system as a whole enables funders to extend both learning and impact beyond their foundations’ individual funding priorities,” said Karen Lehman, Fresh Taste director. “Over the next months, we intend to partner with organizations and communities to promote more innovation in the food system, building from all our strengths.”

Major funders of this round of the Chicago Region Local Food System Fund are Builders Initiative, Crown Family Philanthropies, Food:Land:Opportunity funded through the Searle Funds at The Chicago Community Trust, Fresh Taste, Little Owl Foundation, The Lumpkin Family Foundation, Margot L. Pritzker Fund, Walder Foundation and Walter Mander Foundation.

The fund welcomes additional support. Visit ChicagoRegionFoodFund.org for more information.

Fresh Taste is a collaborative funder initiative committed to racial and economic equity and focused on changing the way food is grown, processed, distributed and consumed in the Chicago region to promote healthy land, healthy people and healthy communities.

Fresh Taste’s vision is that residents of the Chicago region eat local fruits, vegetables, whole grains, meat and dairy products produced through regenerative agriculture and brought to tables by local businesses.

Forefront is Illinois’ membership association for nonprofits, grant-makers, advisers, public agencies and their allies. They provide education, advocacy, thought leadership and facilitate collective action around issues that are important to its members and to the sector. Forefront oversees and is responsible for all financial and legal activities of Fresh Taste.