Response Reinforcement Resilience


Strengthening the food system and building a just future

Created in the early months of the COVID-19 crisis, the Chicago Region Food System Fund focuses on building resilience in the local food system, an area approximately 200 miles from Chicago. The Fund uses a reform and investment approach to support a more equitable, adaptive, and resilient Chicago region food system. This approach embraces experimentation, promotes BIPOC leadership and ownership, and encourages long-term collaboration.

The total support granted by the Fund is $11,438,150 to 156 non-profit organizations since June 2020. The Chicago Region Food System Fund announced an additional $10 million in funding in January 2023.

In addition to food-focused organizations serving farmers, growers, and advocates, the Fund supports a range of organizations, including but not limited to community associations like block clubs and houses of worship who consider food part of their mission, and local food businesses that bring food from farm to table.

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Steering Committee
  • The Steering Committee is composed of six community representatives and three funder representatives.
  • It is responsible for overall fund strategy and design for grantmaking.
  • It is majority community representatives to center the voices of on-the-ground practitioners with extensive experience in the local food system.
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

Three Rounds of Grantmaking Through April 2024

Round One: Evolve the Food System

The only way to build an equitable food system of the scale needed to serve Chicago and its broad metropolitan region is to dismantle the current, highly extractive and inequitable system and replace it. The first round of funding in the upcoming cycle invests in organizations and projects that guide the system away from the current unsustainable, large-scale, commercial approach that rewards a small group of corporations and shareholders to one that encourages cooperative models and sustainability for both the land and livelihoods. Goals for round one include addressing corporate actors who are externalizing costs onto communities, workers, and the natural environment through polluting, exploitative, and greenhouse gas intensive practices; and building worker power to win rights, improve pay, and reform exploitative structures. Applications for Round One funding open in June 2023. Eligibility parameters and other details will be announced at that time.

Round Two: Grow Local and Regional Food System Resources

The Chicago region has a wealth of organizations growing, processing, and distributing food at various scales. These organizations need increased investment. The second round of funding will build on previous grantmaking by the Fund to continue building a resilient food system for the Chicago region. Goals for round two include identifying and addressing bottlenecks and barriers in building out equitable local and regional production and distribution capacity; increasing participation by those who have been marginalized in the system; and developing technology and other innovations to support new value chain and social movement integrations. Applications for round two funding open in September 2023.

Round Three: Prepare for Future Food System Emergencies

The COVID-19 pandemic taught organizations, growers, workers, and funders how an unprepared food system can respond to a sudden existential crisis. Such crises will only continue and worsen as climate change accelerates. The third round of funding applies the lessons of four years of emergency response to planning for future systemic shocks. Goals for round three include shifting away from charity towards solidarity—away from fat, sugar, and salt laden processed foods towards more nutritious foods including, culturally relevant local produce; building assets and opportunities—including employment and education—in communities served; expanding governance and leadership by BIPOC people; and helping the emergency food system to respond equitably to climate change impacts. Applications for round three funding open in January 2024.


Eligibility Criteria

Only 501(c)(3) organizations or fiscal sponsors are eligible to apply. 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. 


Information about future rounds of funding will be announced throughout 2023. Use the button below if you’d like to access your online account at any time.

Emails from CRFSF related to your application will come from one of two email addresses: or “Forefront <>”. You may want to add the addresses to your address book. If you have any questions about your application or the online application system, email The Forefront email address listed above is unmonitored.





The fund was created through the generosity of the founding donors with an initial investment of $4.2M in June 2020 and is managed by Fresh Taste, fiscally sponsored by Forefront.

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


Amanda Hanley Climate Fund
Crown Family Philanthropies
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.


For Immediate Release: Steering Committee Members of Chicago Region Food System Fund Announced

The Chicago Region Food System Fund (CRFSF) today announces its new steering committee responsible for overall fund strategy and design for grantmaking. The Steering Committee is composed of six community representatives and three funder representatives. The Committee is majority community representatives to center the voices of on-the-ground practitioners with extensive experience in the local food system.


If you have any questions about the Chicago Region Food System Fund, including support for applications, email 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,

Photos courtesy of Plant Chicago, The Garden Works, Experimental Station, ICNA Relief USA, SkyART, and Chicago Horticultural Society.

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