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.

Applications are open for Round Two: Grow Local and Regional Food System Resources. View the Guidelines and FAQ page and apply now.

Register for an informational webinar about Round Two, scheduled for Thursday, September 28 at 3 PM CDT

The total support granted by the Fund is $14,098,150 to 166 grantees since June 2020.

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, resilient, and thriving food system of the scale needed to serve Chicago and its broad metropolitan region is to dismantle the current, unsustainable, and exploitative  system and replace it. This is why the Chicago Region Food System Fund (CRFSF) is focusing this “Evolve the Food System” grant cycle on supporting organizations and projects that guide the system away from extractive, commercial agriculture and food systems, which reward a small group of corporations and shareholders, and towards one that encourages cooperative models and sustainability for both the land and livelihoods. This round of grantmaking is focused on creating food policy pathways for systemic change, curbing corporate dominance and control of the food system, and building community and worker power. 

To reach the goal of a sustainable and equitable food system, CRFSF is looking for projects and proposals that address organizations, institutions, and corporate actors that are externalizing costs onto communities, workers, and the natural environment through polluting, exploitative, and greenhouse gas intensive practices, while also building worker power to win rights, improve pay, and reform exploitative structures.

The application period for Round One has closed. Read more about Round One grantees that were announced in September.


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. This “Grow Local and Regional Food Systems” round of funding builds on previous grantmaking by the Chicago Region Food System Fund to strengthen a resilient food system for the Chicago region. Strengthening our local and sustainable food system can also offer climate solutions with regional, national, and global implications. Goals for round two include identifying and addressing bottlenecks and barriers in building 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. Apply now.

Register for an informational webinar about Round Two, scheduled for Thursday, September 28 at 3 PM CDT


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 February 2024.

Below are upcoming key dates for Round Two: “Grow Local and Regional Food System Resources.”



  • Only 501(c)(3) organizations or fiscal sponsors are eligible to apply. However, organizations that lack that status may engage in projects in two ways:
  • Community associations such as block clubs or emerging projects that have not yet secured nonprofit status may partner with established non-profits that can support the work as a program expense or through a fiscal sponsorship relationship.
  • Food system businesses may execute project work through a partnership with a 501(c)(3) organization. The 501(c)(3) must be the applicant to the Fund.
  • GEOGRAPHY—The Chicago Region Food System Fund focuses on the Chicago foodshed, an area roughly 200 miles from Chicago. Organizations located more than 200 miles from Chicago are eligible to apply to the “Grow Local and Regional Food System Resources” grant cycle if their work directly impacts the broader Chicago region. If you’re uncertain as to whether you qualify, email us at
  • PREVIOUS GRANTEES/FUTURE GRANTEESOrganizations that received funding from CRFSF in 2022 or earlier are eligible to apply for the “Grow Local and Regional Food System Resources” RFP. Organizations that received funding in the “Evolve the Food System Round” in Summer 2023 are not eligible to apply.
    • For the three CRFSF funding rounds for 2023, organizations may apply to multiple rounds based on the alignment between an applicant’s project goals and CRFSF funding priorities; however organizations may only receive funding in one of the three rounds. For instance, if your project aligns with the priorities for both “Evolve the Food System” and “Prepare for Future Food System Emergencies,” you may decide to apply in Evolve first. If you receive funding, you are not eligible to reapply in “Prepare;” if you don’t receive funding in “Evolve,” you may apply in either of the next two rounds.
    • Organizations may submit only one application per funding cycle. Fiscal sponsors or 501(c)(3)s acting as fiscal sponsors may submit multiple applications as needed.


To apply for funding, follow the link to the online application system. You can read more about the system on the Guidelines & FAQs page. Applications must be submitted by October 23, 2023, 11:59 PM CDT. Funding decisions are anticipated to be announced by mid-December.

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.



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

CRFSF is fiscally sponsored by Forefront. Correspondence related to grantees’ annual audits can be sent to: Forefront, C/O Impact House, 200 W. Madison St., 2nd Floor, Chicago, IL 60606 or emailed to

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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