Guidelines & FAQs / Grow Local and Regional Food System Resources – September 2023
Q&A document from the September 28 round two webinar.
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.
In order to grow food system resources, CRFSF is looking for projects and proposals that enhance the resilience and adaptability of the food system. A resilient local food system includes projects and programs in urban, peri-urban, and rural areas of the foodshed. Projects may focus on building the system’s capacity as a whole—through collaborative programs, projects, or networks—or on enhancing the scope, reach, and impact of individual organizations. This is the second of three CRFSF grant rounds during 2023-2024 that are interconnected and highly complementary to one another. Available funding for this round will be up to $3.8M.
Addressing Bottlenecks and Barriers
Work in this area focuses on infrastructure development, logistical distribution capacity, and human or capital resources needed to create a robust and resilient local and regional food system. Priority will be given to projects specifically aimed at removing or overcoming bottlenecks—physical, political, or perceived—in the system’s production chain and/or organizational infrastructure.
Work in this area focuses on expanding the role of the food system in overall regional resilience. Priority will go to work with and within historically and currently marginalized communities, projects that are community driven, and efforts by organizations to increase diverse participation. The pandemic clearly showed that the food system is deeply intertwined with organizations and projects—from mutual aid societies to conservation groups and from social justice organizations to affordable housing advocates. Proposed projects should increase participation in the food system—both food-focused organizations that are working to include others and organizations working to connect to the food system.
Developing Technology and Innovations
Work in this area focuses on technology and innovations that support new value chain and social movement integrations in the food system. Priority will be given to projects that apply new or maturing technologies to sustainable food work, innovative solutions to seemingly intractable problems, and tools that democratize access to the sustainable food market.
Examples of the types of ideas we would welcome in this application round include (but are in no way limited to):
- Innovative aggregation and distribution warehouses for locally sourced food, with no labor exploitation and a positive environmental output.
- App which helps farmers calculate amounts of produce to bring to farmers markets to reduce waste.
- Facilitating the development of urban farms or community gardens on public land by working with appropriate government agencies.
- Develop a system of shared fair labor across multiple growing operations.
- An intergenerational program to grow, process, and distribute food in a local community.
- Development or improvement of suburban, peri-urban, or rural farms who collaborate to supply fresh produce to Chicago-region grocers, co-ops, or distribution programs.
- New technology to facilitate water access and conservation for urban farms and gardens.
- Programs which engage participation of people with disabilities in the food system.
- Urban/rural land-use projects which increase climate resilience by adopting regenerative agriculture practices that build soil health, increase biodiversity, and improve local ecosystem services.
- Infrastructure and practices connected to food/agriculture and conservation/biodiversity.
- Infrastructure that facilitates preparation, processing, or distribution of local food.
In 2024, CRFSF will announce the third of the three interconnected funding rounds, “Prepare for Future Food System Emergencies,” which will apply the lessons of four years of emergency response to planning for future systemic shocks. You may find that your project is better suited for a Round 3 application.
Examples of projects better suited for Round 3:
- Facilitating networks to collect and distribute emergency food.
- Programs that partner with local growers to provide nutrition or cooking classes.
- Projects that are primarily activated/initiated during food system disruptions, such as emergency food system home delivery.
- A food pantry developing a new site with an emphasis on culturally relevant food or a “self-service” model.
Primary Narrative Question from the Application
Describe your project and how it encourages cooperative models and sustainability for both the land and livelihoods. Address the following in your narrative:
- Which of the three focus areas for this round does your project address and how (bottlenecks/barriers, increased participation, or tech/innovation)? Your project may include more than one focus area.
- How does your organization define the regional local food system?
- How does this project contribute to a resilient, market-based local food system over time?
- How does your project increase production or distribution of locally grown food to the greater Chicago region?
- What innovative strategies are you using to reduce barriers for equitable participation in the growth of the local food system?
In this application, we ask you to focus your story on what you have, not on what you lack. This is not a “needs assessment.” Too often philanthropy has asked you to justify your work by telling us how distressed your community is. We want to change that, and we hope to enlist you in helping make that change by centering your application in your community/organizational assets and strengths.
Who Can Apply
- ELIGIBILITY—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 vendor contract 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 Systems” grant round if their work directly impacts the broader Chicago region. If you’re uncertain as to whether you qualify, email us at email@example.com.
- PREVIOUS GRANTEES/FUTURE GRANTEES—Organizations 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 round. Fiscal sponsors or 501(c)(3)s acting as fiscal sponsors may submit multiple applications as needed.
- Q&A document from the September 28 round two webinar.
- GRANT REQUEST AMOUNTS—CRFSF anticipates awarding $3,800,000 in grants for “Grow Local and Regional Food System Resources.” Grants will be available ranging from $25,000 to $150,000 in $25,000 increments. On the application, you’ll be asked to select a grant size that best fits your organizational/project budget or current funding needs.
- GRANT PERIOD—Both one and two year grants will be offered. On the application, you’ll be asked to provide more information about your timeline. Applicants can select a grant period of either one or two years to complete their project. The top grant amount offered will be $150,000 for either period.
- APPLICATION REVIEW PROCESS & CRITERIA—All applications will be reviewed by the CRFSF Steering Committee based on criteria that reflects the key funding priorities for “Grow Local and Regional Food System Resources.” Additionally, CRFSF may contact applicants to clarify information included in the application. Review criteria include:
- The extent to which an applicant’s ongoing or proposed new work influences food policy pathways for systemic change; curbs corporate dominance and control of the food system; and/or builds community and worker power in the food system.
- Applicants’ connections to the Chicago region.
- Applicants’ connections to disinvested, under-represented, underserved, and under-resourced neighborhoods or populations; or to small business/non-profit partners, and the extent to which the proposed work respects and builds on said community assets rather than appropriating them.
- These populations include, but are not limited to: those who are undocumented; Indigenous; Black/of African descent; Latine; LGBTQIA+; family farmers, including those who have been displaced from their land; those working in the food supply chain; veterans. CRFSF defines organizations that are BIPOC-led as greater than 50% BIPOC board and leadership.
- APPLICATIONS—the online application for this RFP opened on September 21, 2023. Applications are due October 23, 11:59 p.m. CT.
- WEBINAR/INFO SESSION—CRFSF will offer a webinar about “Grow Local and Regional Food System Resources” on September 28, 3:00 p.m. CT. This info session will discuss the funding priorities and answer general questions. Register here for the webinar. For specific questions about your application (“Am I eligible to apply?” etc.), email firstname.lastname@example.org
- DECISIONS—Grant decisions are anticipated in mid-December 2023, but the timeframe for reviews is dependent on the number of applications received. CRFSF will notify grantees as expeditiously as possible. An announcement of the “Grow Local and Regional Food Systems Resources” grants and the RFP for the “Grow Local and Regional Food System Resources” are both anticipated in September.
How to Submit
- Click this link to access the online application system.
- You can read more about the application system in the FAQs.
- Once you’ve registered to create an account, you’ll fill out and submit your application online. The application includes questions about basic organizational and project information, including your budget.
FAQs About the Online Application System
- How do I use the online application system? What if I forgot my username and/or password?
- We’re an organization applying for funding through a fiscal sponsor. How do we register and apply?
- I’ve logged in and would like to start a new application. Please help!
- Can I log out of the online application system and return to my grant request at a later time? Does the online system automatically save my work as I go?
- I added the wrong document to my grant request or report. How do I remove it and add the correct one?
- I accidentally started multiple drafts of a grant request. How do I remove the ones I don’t need?
- How can I be sure I’ve submitted my application?
- How do I save and download a copy of my application for my records?
- Are there any manuals or guides to using the online application system?
How do I use the online application system?
- If you are a previous applicant or grantee of CRFSF (or North Lawndale Fresh or Austin Fresh) —log in to the online application system using your existing account and password.
- If this is your first time applying for a grant from CRFSF (or North Lawndale Fresh or Austin Fresh), go to the online application system, create a new account, and set up your password. When you set up your account, you’ll see a screen with information about the confirmation email sent to you from “Forefront email@example.com” and how to ensure you’ve received it.
- To invite someone to work on the application with you: use the “Collaborate” button at the top of your application page and follow the instructions.
- If you don’t know your password, please select the reset password link on the login screen [ADD LINK]. Your user name is the email you used to create your account. If you don’t know which email you used, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’re an organization applying for funding through a fiscal sponsor. How do we register and apply?
You will register as your organization and include the fiscal sponsor name in parentheses. For example: Fresh Taste (Forefront). The registration form includes fields for providing your fiscal sponsor information.
I’ve logged in and would like to start a new application. Please help!
After logging in, you can start a new application by selecting “Apply” in the upper menu next to the Forefront logo. Look for the CRFSF funding round you’re interested in and select the “Apply” button on the right side.
Can I log out of the online application system and return to my grant request at a later time? Does the online system automatically save my work as I go?
The system autosaves each time you click into a new question, but if you are not ready to submit your application it is advisable to save your work before logging out to ensure no information is lost. This is done by selecting the “Save” button in the bottom right-hand corner. (Some applicants find that it’s easier to type out answers in a separate Word document and then copy/paste into the online system before submitting.) You can save your draft request in the bottom right-hand corner of the application. Once saved, you can return at any time to complete your request by looking for your draft in the “Active Requests” section. Look for the “Edit Application” link to the right. Please do not begin a separate application every time you log in. When a funding round closes, all applications still in “draft” status will be marked as ‘abandoned.”
I added the wrong document to my grant request or report. How do I remove it and add the correct one?
If you’re still in draft form, you can remove the attachment and reattach different documents. If you notice an error after you have submitted your application, please email email@example.com to let us know, and we’ll work with you on the correction.
I accidentally started multiple drafts of a grant request. How do I remove the ones I don’t need?
To edit drafts you have already started, click Edit next to the draft on your dashboard rather than returning to the Apply page and starting over. To avoid starting multiple requests in the future, please check your active requests folder before beginning a new request and be sure to save your request as you go. When a funding round closes, all applications still in “draft” status will be marked as ‘abandoned.”
How can I be sure I’ve submitted my application?
First, when you’re done editing, always “Save” your request using the button at the bottom. Saving ensures you can return to our application and continue editing. When your application is complete, be sure to click the “Submit” button at the bottom of the page. Once you submit, you’ll receive a confirmation email. You can also log into the online application system, look to the “Active Requests” section. A submitted application will have a link that says “View” rather than “Edit.”
How do I save and download a copy of my application for my records?
While you are logged-in and viewing your application look for the “Application Packet” button and follow the instructions.
Are there any manuals or guides to using the online application system?
For all other questions and assistance with the online application system not answered above, visit these links:
Video 1: Site Access & Account Creation (3 mins.)
Video 2: Applying for Funding (5 mins.)
Video 3: Your Applicant Dashboard (3 mins.)
Video 4: Apply for a Grant – Applicant Overview/Summary (4 mins.)