Chicago Region Food System Fund
The Chicago Region Food System Fund focuses on COVID-19 related response and building resilience in the local food system, an area approximately 200 miles from Chicago. Priority has been given to organizations producing food in, and supplying food to, communities of color.
Originally planned as a series of grant rounds in 2020 and early 2021, the Chicago Region Food Fund will continue its grantmaking into 2023. Since June 2020, the Fund has distributed a total of $11,438,150 to 156 grantees.
Major funders of the Chicago Region Food System Fund are Builders Initiative, Crown Family Philanthropies, Food:Land:Opportunity, Fresh Taste, Little Owl Foundation, The Lumpkin Family Foundation, Margot L. Pritzker Fund, Walder Foundation, and Walter Mander Foundation. The Fund welcomes additional support.
Community / Place-Based Collaborative Grantmaking
Since its inception, Food:Land:Opportunity has supported a thriving urban agriculture system that is firmly embedded in the assets of local Chicago neighborhoods. Working collaboratively with other funders through Austin Fresh and North Lawndale Fresh, FLO resources focus on programs and projects at the community level making positive impact to increase healthy affordable food access for all.
Austin Fresh is a collaborative grantmaking program, started in 2020, to increase access to healthy affordable food, support community gardens and local food production, grow food enterprises, and protect and strengthen food assistance programs in the Austin neighborhood of Chicago. The vision is an equitable Chicagoland region where all people have knowledge of and access to healthy food. Austin Fresh uses a place-based model focusing on listening to community needs and supporting community-owned solutions to make healthy food affordable and plentiful. To address issues of equity and racial justice, Austin Fresh recognizes the need to place Austin on a more just and equitable footing with regard to food access with a total of $1M for each of five years to support the neighborhood.
Food:Land:Opportunity works closely with Builders Initiative, The Christopher Family Foundation, The Lumpkin Family Foundation, and the Walter Mander Foundation through Austin Fresh.
North Lawndale Fresh is a collaborative grant making program to increase access to healthy affordable food, support community gardens and local food production, grow food enterprises, and protect and strengthen food assistance programs in the North Lawndale neighborhood. The vision is an equitable Chicagoland region where all people have knowledge of and access to healthy food. The funders involved with North Lawndale Fresh have committed to distribute a minimum of $1M for each of the next five years to support the neighborhood.
Food:Land:Opportunity works closely with Builders Initiative, The Lumpkin Family Foundation, Walter Mander Foundation and Steans Family Foundation through North Lawndale Fresh.
Illinois Regenerative Agriculture Initiative
The Illinois Regenerate Agriculture Initiative (IRAI) is a collaborative project created to build sustained research, education, and outreach efforts in regenerative agriculture at the University of Illinois. IRAI’s goal is to develop and promote regenerative agriculture, to attract talent to the field, and build a culture of collaboration between departments at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and with regional stakeholders.
Since 2019, Food:Land:Opportunity has been working diligently to find ways to address the entrenched and persistent capital gaps in the regional food system in the Chicago foodshed. We are excited to share that we will be launching a vehicle, Proofing Station, in early 2023 to provide flexible investment products and grant capital.
Proofing Station’s mission is to increase access to capital for small and mid-sized entities in the Midwest regional food and agriculture supply chain, and its objective is to offer financial products and technical assistance that will support these entities while advancing ecological sustainability, social and racial equity, and economic resilience.
Proofing Station’s first initiative is the formation of an impact-first investment fund focused on investing integrated capital in entities operating across all sectors in the food and agriculture supply chain, including production, processing, and retail. We will focus investment around these identified market gaps: excluded market players, land and real assets, regional Infrastructure, and sustainable cultivation. The fund intends to demonstrate that flexible capital can be effectively deployed to a wide spectrum of entrepreneurs working across the local food value chain.
Proofing Station is a collaborative venture, supported by multiple Chicago area funders (Food:Land:Opportunity, Lumpkin Family Foundation, Margot L. Pritzker Fund) and is a newly organized enterprise awaiting approval of corporate exemption from federal income taxation under IRS Code Section 501(c)(3). Management of the fund will be administered by Torana Group, a private investment firm.
Contact program staff or sign up to receive email updates.
Director of Conservation Initiatives
The Chicago Community Trust
Senior Director – Community Impact
Images: Star Farm, Austin Fresh/Bethel New Life, Illinois Regenerative Agriculture Initiative