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 $20,973,150 to 202 grantees since June 2020. Read more about each round of funding and grantee.

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.

A Steering Committee governs the Fund. Fresh Taste, fiscally sponsored by Forefront, provides administrative management.

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

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 from June 2023 to June 2024

The Fund recently completed three interconnected rounds of grantmaking, designed as a cycle to build on and complement each other.

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 and the Round One Guidelines and FAQs page.


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.

The application period for Round Two has closed. Read more about Round Two grantees that were announced in January and the Round Two Guidelines and FAQs page.


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.

The application period for Round Three has closed. Read more about Round Three grantees that were announced in June and the Round Three Guidelines and FAQs page.



  • 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


You can read more about the system on the Guidelines & FAQs page. All current rounds of funding are closed. Sign up for our email list to receive updates and announcements from the Fund.

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.





Amanda Hanley Climate Fund
Builders Initiative
Fresh Taste
Lumpkin Family Foundation
Margot L. Pritzker Fund
Walder Foundation


The fund was created through the generosity of the founding donors with an initial investment of $4.2M in June 2020. The Fund would not exist without this bedrock of support at the height of uncertainty early in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Acknowledgment Funders

Amanda Hanley Climate Fund
Benida Group
Builders Initiative
Crown Family Philanthropies
James F. Beré Family Fund
Little Owl Foundation
Lumpkin Family Foundation
Margot L. Pritzker Fund
Walder Foundation
Walter S. Mander Foundation

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.

Follow us on Instagram

Follow us on Facebook

Follow us on LinkedIn