The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about significant disruption and rapid change for the region’s food system. Farmers, fishers, processors, distributors, and consumers – indeed the entire food system – are experiencing unprecedented circumstances. For some, business survival is in doubt. For others, the crisis is testing their ability to adapt to keep their neighbors, communities, and region fed.
The New England Food System Resilience Fund is a joint philanthropic effort designed to reinforce, restore, and promote the resilience of the regional food system in a time of unprecedented disruption. It will do so in three phases over the course of 12-18 months:
Phase One provides immediate reinforcement for organizations that are creatively employing the many assets of the regional food system to respond to the COVID-19 disruption and position our region’s farmers and food producers for recovery.
Phase Two will support the recovery needs of the regional food system. As the emergency recedes, New England’s farmers, food producers, and the organizations that support them will need additional resources to restore operations to pre-pandemic levels and turn the lessons of the coronavirus crisis into opportunities for building a stronger regional food system.
Phase Three will support longer-term planning needs within the regional food system focused on ensuring New England’s farmers and food producers and the organizations that support them emerge stronger, more resilient, and better equipped to feed the region through good times and bad.
The goal of the New England Food System Resilience Fund is to raise and deploy at least $1 million. The John Merck Fund has committed $500,000 and will lead the effort. The Henry P. Kendall Foundation has committed $250,000 and will provide a variety of supporting resources. The 1772 Foundation has provided $100,000. The foundation partners welcome others to join them toward their fundraising goal.
To contribute to the New England Food System Resilience Fund, or to learn more about it, please contact Christine James at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Organizations will be invited to apply and awards will be made in a streamlined manner with the assistance of a team of expert volunteer advisors.
The following were approved for award on April 20, 2020:
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.