Established in March 2020, The New England Food System Resilience Fund was orignally a joint philanthropic effort designed to reinforce, restore, and promote the resilience of the regional food system in a time of unprecedented disruption resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
In early November initial funders The Henry P. Kendall Foundation, The John Merck Fund and partner foundations, The 1772 Foundation, The Sandy River Charitable Foundation and The Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation approved the transfer of those funds to The New England Grassroots Environment Fund, Inc. (Grassroots Fund), which will assume management of the effort and expand its area of focus to include racial equity. Read more about the original purpose of the fund and decision to transfer its design and stewardship.
Update on Next Steps & How to Stay Connected
The Resilience Fund’s remaining balance transferred to the Grassroots Fund in late 2020, while fundraising continues. Initially, the Grassroots Fund planned on using their participatory process, which uses an open call for application readers and works with a grantmaking committee to make final decisions on resource allocations based on community-submitted grant applications. However, after reflecting on the intent of the fund, which is to expand focus on funding racial equity within New England’s food system, we decided to reevaluate our approach. We conducted an extensive series of interviews with food system organizers, regional state food planners and grassroots leaders across New England. From these conversations, we found that our initial effort could continue to perpetuate existing systemic inequalities in whose voices are centered about New England food systems. We also drew inspiration from HEAL Food Alliance’s Open Letter to Food System Funders and Soul Fire Farm’s Equity Guidelines for Funders, who outline steps that food system funders can take to more just ways of giving.
The practices that drew our attention include:
- Cultivate authentic partnership with BIPOC communities
- Examine our own funding trends
- Move toward participatory grantmaking models with BIPOC-led orgs
- Shift towards regenerative practices
- Fund general operating expenses and not asking for “projects” and “innovation”
- Support culturally responsive technical assistance
This fundamental shift highlights how we are evolving participatory grantmaking toward community-led and grassroots-led grantmaking, which we see as necessary for more equity-driven work. We have set the initial design of the fund, and are now looking to co-create this model with community organizers who are already centering equity in their work.
The Food System Resilience Fund will convene a group of up to 20 food organizers representing grassroots organizations who are working at the intersection of equity, food justice, and community development. The cohort will meet between 2021-2022 and will participate in a giving circle, where cohort members will collectively decide how to distribute up to $400,000 in 2021 and continue to partake in learning sessions throughout 2022. We aim to continue this model of a giving circle and learning cohort ongoing, with the goal of distributing at least $400,000 each year.
While this is no longer an open-call for grant applications, we appreciate your interest in the fund and hope you’ll look out for additional ways to be involved with the Food System Resilience Fund. We also will continue to fund food system work in our other grant programs, more information here.
The Grassroots Fund invites those who wish to stay up to date about this transition or to learn more about the funds evolution(s) to join our newsletter for regular updates:
For general questions about the Food System Resilience Fund, contact Sarah Huang
For information on contributing to this ongoing funding pool contact Julia Dundorf.