Guidelines & FAQs / Prepare for Future Food System Emergencies – February 2024

Questions about the “Prepare for Future Food System Emergencies” PDF

Prepare for Future Food System Emergencies – February 2024

The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated how unprepared the traditional food system is to meet demand during a sudden systemic breakdown. As part of the Chicago Region Food System Fund’s overall support for a local, sustainable food system, the third round of funding in this cycle applies what the nonprofit organizations, growers, workers, and funders learned—both positive and negative—from pandemic response to planning for future systemic shocks.

These lessons include the need:

  • for culturally appropriate emergency food,
  • to expand who leads and participates in the food system,
  • to quickly overcome systemic obstacles,
  • to substantively support food and farm workers,
  • for local growers and producers to connect with the emergency food system to provide fresh, healthy nutritional food,
  • and to coordinate and collaborate to strengthen efforts across the system.

In the current CRFSF funding cycle (June 2023 to May 2024), Round One and Round Two addressed the broader aspects of the food system. However, Round Three specifically targets components related to food production, distribution, and access that can effectively respond and expand during emergency situations. Goals for Round Three include programs that shift 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; approaches that expand governance and leadership by BIPOC people; and projects that help the emergency food system to respond equitably to climate change impacts.

Proposed projects should focus on advancing beyond the way emergency food response currently operates. They can address ways that organizations and communities can innovate the food support they are currently providing. And they can better integrate emergency food responses into the stronger regional food system that we’re all working to create.

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) partnered with non-profits; food chain workers; emergency food system organizations, including houses of worship, integrating local food; and wasted food projects.


Examples (but not an exhaustive list!) of the types of ideas we would welcome in this application round include projects that are:

  • Transforming food pantries or banks to include culturally relevant, local foods for improved emergency response.
  • Enabling social service organizations to integrate innovative food-related projects that address community-specific needs.
  • Supporting volunteer-based emergency food organizations with stipends or paid roles to achieve worker equity.
  • Upgrading emergency food organization infrastructure with gardens, delivery vehicles, or cold storage to boost local food distribution.
  • Supporting a veggie Rx program that integrates local farmers/producers and the cultural knowledge/experience of community members.
  • Collaborating with diverse food rescue allies and/or initiating gleaning programs for efficient distribution and utilization of excess local food resources.
  • Supporting emergency food organization work that better communicates with new community members, promotes equitable participation, or trains new diverse leaders and volunteers who are reflective of the community they serve.
  • Growing multi-partner initiatives (local farms, community gardens, food-hubs, food businesses, etc.) that build rural/periurban/urban relationships linking to the emergency food system (delivery programs, technology coordination, infrastructure, etc.)  
  • Developing multi-season growing options (indoor farms, hoop houses, etc.) that are resilient to climate change and which will service emergency food providers.
  • Empowering communities by leveraging emergency food initiatives as a tool for engagement and organizing.

Primary Narrative Question from the Application

Describe your project and how it prepares our local food system to respond better to emergencies in the future. Address the following in your narrative:

  • How does your project align with one or more of the major goals for this round of funding, as listed in the RFP:  projects that shift away from charity towards solidarity; building assets and opportunities in communities served; expanding governance and leadership by BIPOC people; and helping the emergency food system to respond equitably to climate change impacts.
  • Discuss what type of emergency response your project addresses.
  • What activities will be undertaken to strengthen your work so that it can respond and scale up in times of emergencies?  What strategies are you using/proposing to meet your goals?
  • How does your work fit into the local food system of the greater Chicago region? For example, is your emergency food system work connected to another food system activity such as supporting a local farm or community garden, connecting to wasted food rescue programs, processing locally-grown food for prepared meals, or encouraging greater community health?
  • What is your organization’s capacity to do this work? 
  • Are partnerships/collaborations needed for the project to be successful? If so, describe the kinds of partnerships/collaborations that either already exist or are proposed.

APPLICANT NOTE: 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. 

Secondary Narrative Question from the Application: Community Connection

“Community” means different things to different people. For some, it’s centered in a place like a neighborhood or town. For others, a community is cultural. Or springing from an identity, such as gender, or a shared experience/status, such as veterans. We respect all these forms of community and more. The Fund asks that organizations be reflective of their community, from staffing to board, and will center communities that have been marginalized.

Tell us how your project is rooted in your community? How does your work include community-generated approaches to producing, processing, or distributing emergency food? Explain how your staff and leadership comes from within the community, rather than from the outside. 

APPLICANT NOTE: For collaborative projects, partners may be larger institutions with external origins, but preference will be given to community-rooted lead partners. Community partners may choose to reach out to external partners of different scales for their expertise and/or to help manage large projects. We would look for evidence that the governance structure of multi-scale collaborations prioritize community power in decision-making and have the means and processes to demonstrate that.

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 “Prepare for Future Food System Emergencies” grant round if their work directly impacts the broader Chicago region. If you’re uncertain as to whether you qualify, email us at
  • PREVIOUS GRANTEES/FUTURE GRANTEES—Organizations that received funding from CRFSF in 2022 or earlier are eligible to apply for the “Prepare for Future Food System Emergencies” RFP, except for organizations that received funding in the “Evolve the Food System Round” in Summer 2023 or the “Grow the Food System” round in January 2024, who are not eligible to apply.
    • For the three CRFSF funding rounds for 2023/2024, 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.
    • 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. 

Important Information

  • Q&A document from the round three webinar.
  • GRANT REQUEST AMOUNTS—CRFSF anticipates awarding $3,000,000 in grants for “Prepare for Future Food System Emergencies.” 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.
    • We encourage you to include indirect costs up to 15% of your project budget, regardless of the size of your project or amount of your request! Indirect costs are costs related to overhead or administration of your work. Examples of indirect costs can include a portion of an executive director’s time not involved in the delivery of services or programs, but rather in the administration of the organization. Indirect costs can be represented by the sum of a % of ED salary, a percentage of facility rent or a portion of marketing expenses to promote the program, for instance. Indirect costs can be calculated on actual usage or by a percentage of your budget.
  • 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. 

Key Dates

  • APPLICATIONS—the online application for this RFP opened on February 12, 2024. Applications are due March 11, 2024, 11:59 p.m. CT.
  • WEBINAR/INFO SESSION—CRFSF will offer a webinar about “Prepare for Future Food System Emergencies” on February 14, 2:00 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
  • DECISIONS—Grant decisions are anticipated in early May, but the timeframe for reviews is dependent on the number of applications received. CRFSF will notify grantees as expeditiously as possible. 

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” 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

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 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:
Written Guide
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.)