Pandemic Response Reinforcement Resilience

HOW TO APPLY SUPPORT THE FUND

Strengthening the food system and building a just future

The Chicago Region Food System Fund addresses hunger and business disruption by bolstering the region’s communities and local food system in response to COVID-19 and other systemic shocks. From an initial investment of $4.2M, the Fund has grown to more than $7.3M. As of October 2020, the Fund has awarded 85 grants totaling $3.97M focused on pandemic response projects. In November 2020, a new round of funding will extend beyond immediate emergency response.

The COVID-19 pandemic is still with us—and the needs of the community and the food system are evolving. This round of funding centers on long-term food system resilience—without losing sight of the pandemic—and is rooted in racial and economic justice. Any definition of resilience requires diversity. The CRFSF team takes a broad view and encourages participation from diverse communities: urban neighborhoods and rural communities; tribal nations; LGBTQIA+ organizations; veterans; food chain workers; food system businesses; investors; and more. The Fund will prioritize BIPOC-led organizations promoting food system resilience in BIPOC communities.

Examples of the kinds of organizations the Fund could support include nonprofits:
  • Able to support community associations providing local food and food system support to neighbors, such as block clubs, cultural associations, and community gardens.
  • Developing new business models—alone or in partnership with businesses—to rapidly improve food distribution, consumer connection, and infrastructure while reducing wasted food.
  • Collaborating with farmers, urban and rural, who prioritize sales into local and regional markets, especially in communities of color.
  • Working with food chain workers at high risk of contracting COVID-19.
  • Focusing on innovation, investment, policy, or media narratives to reduce barriers and take advantage of market shifts.
When times are easy and there’s plenty to go around, individual species can go it alone. But when conditions are harsh and life is tenuous, it takes a team sworn to reciprocity to keep life going forward. Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants Robin Wall Kimmerer, Author/Professor

Acknowledging traditional stewards

The Fund offers a land acknowledgement for the stewardship by indigenous peoples of the region served by the Fund. We honor that stewardship and recognize that we now occupy this land through a long history of theft and exploitation: Chicago is part of the traditional homelands of the Council of the Three Fires: the Odawa, Ojibwe, and Potawatomi nations. Many other tribes—such as the Miami, Ho-Chunk, Sac, Fox and Menominee—also called this area home. The land is also a site of trade, gathering and healing for countless other Native nations throughout time immemorial.

Adapting to strengthen resilience in the food system

The pandemic has taught us a lot. A resilient food system is resilient because people, land, and communities are able to adapt to changing conditions, including major shocks, in ways that minimize immediate losses and strengthen the capacity for everyone to thrive. Food system nonprofits and businesses are moving quickly based on that experience, building on assets, and prototyping new ways of doing things in this changed context. It’s a dynamic moment. The CRFSF team wants to support and accelerate that dynamism as much as possible, both in the grants we make and how we partner to capture learning with a commitment to continual improvement.

Diverse approaches, hopeful future

Some see resilience in the context of climate change. Others in the ability to live through and transform trauma. Still others see it as food sovereignty rooted in traditional ecological knowledge as practiced by indigenous communities. Or in locally owned and well-integrated food businesses. No one approach can define and ensure resilience—but together the region’s vibrant web of rural, urban, and peri-urban food communities can build a resilient, racially and economically just future

ELIGIBILITY

With this round of funding, the CRFSF is moving beyond immediate emergency response to resilience — while keeping COVID-19 at the center. We look forward to learning what you think is most important to undertake in these momentous times! If you’re uncertain about whether or not you’re eligible to apply, contact foodsystem@freshtaste.org or 773-944-5100. The CRFSF team will also schedule office hours to discuss individual projects — sign up using the link in the “Contact Us” section below to receive email notifications/

Eligibility Criteria

Only 501(c)(3) organizations or fiscal sponsors are eligible to apply, and there are loose geographic restrictions. The Chicago Region Food Fund focuses on an area roughly 200 miles from Chicago. Tribal nations located more than 200 miles from Chicago are eligible to apply if the Chicago region is part of their market. Previous CRFSF grantees are eligible to reapply. See the CRFSF FAQs for more info.

  • In Cook, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Lake, McHenry, and Will counties, funding consideration includes nonprofits working with: urban and peri-urban farmers; food hubs/cooperatives; farmers markets; community organizations with close ties to informal community associations; food businesses (processors, distributors, slaughterhouses, retail, restaurants, institutional providers); food chain workers impacted by COVID or at a high-risk of contracting the virus; emergency food system organizations integrating local food; and wasted food projects.
  • Funding consideration in other regions of Illinois, southeast Wisconsin, northwest Indiana, and southwest Michigan is for nonprofits working with rural farmers, food aggregation hubs, and food processors that include the Chicago metropolitan area as part of their market. This includes nonprofits supporting food chain workers impacted by COVID-19 or at high risk of contracting the virus. Tribal nations and indigenous peoples’ organizations that prioritize the Chicago region as part of a food sovereignty strategy will also be considered.

HOW TO APPLY

To apply for funding, follow the link to the online application system and complete three steps: answer the eligibility quiz, fill out the registration form to create an online account, then fill out and submit an application. For more information about the online application system, please see a list of FAQs about the online application system.

Grant Focus and Timing

The application is designed with questions to help the Fund better understand your work and how your work contributes to a resilient local food system. Applications will be accepted for amounts up to $200,000. The online application is available starting November 16 and must be submitted by January 13, 11:59 p.m. CT. Funding decisions will be made in mid-February. The grant period will be one-year.

 

Webinar and Office Hours

The CRFSF team will host a webinar on December 3, 9-10 a.m. CT to discuss the current round of funding. We’ll offer a limited number of office hour sessions December 4-17. Office hours are offered to talk through ideas for your application and answer questions about the focus of this round of funding. Follow the links to register. (Looking for technical support? Email foodsystem@freshtaste.org)

 

GRANTEES

The Chicago Region Food System Fund awarded 85 grants totaling $3.97M in the first round focused on pandemic response. Learn more about some of the grantees’ important work to strengthen and create a more equitable local food system and to provide food to those in need during the pandemic by viewing the featured grantees below. Check back often, as we’ll continue adding more grantee pages, and you can see the full list of grantees here.

Acknowledgments

The fund was created through the generosity of the founding donors with an initial investment of $4.2M and is managed by Fresh Taste, fiscally sponsored by Forefront.

The Builders Initiative
Food:Land:Opportunity
Fresh Taste
Little Owl Foundation
The Lumpkin Family Foundation
Margot L. Pritzker Fund
Walder Foundation
Walter Mander Foundation

OTHER CONTRIBUTORS

ADDITIONAL DONORS
James F. Beré Family Fund at The Chicago Community Trust
The Benida Group LLC

 

Advisor: Betty Emarita, Development & Training, Inc. 

Website design: Right Angle Studio, Inc.

CONTACT US

If you have any questions about the Chicago Region Food System Fund, including support for applications, email foodsystem@freshtaste.org or call 773-944-5100.

Sign up for our email list to receive announcements from the Fund.

Media inquiries—Please contact Brandon Hayes, Founder, Bold Bison Communications & Consulting, at 312-945-8416, brandon@boldbisonconsulting.com.

Photos courtesy of Plant Chicago, Elawa Farm Foundation, Chinese American Service League, and Gary Comer Youth Center.

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