Established in March 2020, the New England Food System Resilience Fund began as 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 April, with help from a volunteer review panel of eight food systems experts from around the region, the Resilience Fund made eleven first-round “Reinforcement” grants (listed below) totaling just under $350,000. Overall, $1 million has been raised for the Resilience Fund from five foundations and fundraising continues.
George Floyd’s murder just one month after the initial round of grants and the ensuing national reckoning with racial injustice prompted leaders of The John Merck Fund and the Henry P. Kendall Foundation to reconsider the Resilience Fund as a potential vehicle to not only respond to the ongoing pandemic, but also to acknowledge and begin to address the many racial inequities in both the current food system and in philanthropic practices. Further, they recognized that the New England Grassroots Environment Fund (the Grassroots Fund) holds the expertise and participatory grantmaking practices necessary to carry this important work forward through a racial equity lens.
The Resilience Fund’s remaining balance of $650,000 is now coming under the management of the Grassroots Fund, while fundraising continues. The Grassroots Fund’s participatory process uses an open call for application readers and works with a grantmaking committee to make final decisions on resource allocations. Through self-identified demographic data from participants, the Grassroots Fund intentionally brings together groups with diverse lived experiences and builds skills around bias in decisionmaking, white supremacy culture, and system change. More information is available here: Resilience Fund to Grassroots Fund Press Release.
The Grassroots Fund invites those who wish to learn more about this transition to click here to complete a form indicating interest.
Center for an Agricultural Economy (Hardwick, Vermont)
New and adapted programming in response to COVID-19 crisis, technical assistance and micro grants for farmers, support to eight small stores in northeastern Vermont to increase access to local food.
Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (Deerfield, Massachusetts)
Technical assistance for farm and food businesses, food safety and worker safety training, collaboration to ensure emergency food programs include local farm products.
Crown O’ Maine Organic Distribution (North Vassalboro, Maine)
Warehouse improvements that meet food safety and organic standards, updated and expanded marketing related to COVID-19 as well as “50 Small” cobranded product line that preserves Maine farmers’ identity through supply chain to end consumers.
Farm Fresh Rhode Island (Pawtucket, Rhode Island)
Adapting internal systems in response to COVID-19 crisis, including wholesale system to serve home delivery and curbside pickup.
Food Connects (Brattleboro, Vermont)
Increase in purchasing and sales staff capacity, cold storage capacity expansion to improve efficiencies.
Franklin County Community Development Corporation (Greenfield, Massachusetts)
Western Massachusetts Food Processing Center
Repurposing locally grown vegetables originally for cafeterias, planning for processing center beyond crisis.
Maine Farmland Trust & Maine Organic Farmers & Gardeners Association (Belfast & Unity, Maine)
Emergency fund for small-scale farmers and food processors.
Migrant Justice (Burlington, Vermont)
Expanded services to support Vermont’s immigrant farmworkers, advocacy to ensure “essential workers” in Vermont’s agriculture sector are protected and supported regardless of immigration status.
Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (Burlington, Vermont)
Farmer Emergency Fund & Relief Milking Program for dairy industry, advocacy to ensure access to healthy food for all Vermonters during the pandemic, technical assistance to help farmers access new markets.
The Carrot Project (Boston, Massachusetts)
The Blueprint Initiative
Emergency technical assistance to farmers and food producers, individualized service by experienced advisors to up to 160 small-scale farmers and food entrepreneurs across New England.
Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund (Montpelier, Vermont)
New England Food Systems Planners Community of Practice
Ongoing information sharing and coordination among the leaders of the six New England states’ food systems planning networks, increased staffing capacity for communications, outreach, policy advocacy, administration, and fundraising.