As the coronavirus pandemic continues to bring disruption to food systems around the world, creating strong local and regional food economies are more important than ever. KK&P is working with the newly established New England Food System Resilience Fund, a joint philanthropic effort created by The John Merck Fund (JMF), The Henry P. Kendall Foundation (HPKF) and The 1772 Foundation, to reinforce, restore and promote the resilience of New England’s regional food system.
Months before the coronavirus crisis hit, KK&P began working with JMF to design a special new initiative that would support the region’s food system as JMF approached its sunset in 2022. We conducted interviews and surveys with numerous stakeholders and experts in the New England food system and began developing potential approaches for such an initiative. As the Covid-19 crisis emerged and escalated, we quickly pivoted with JMF to take the learnings from this research and use them instead to guide the development of the New England Food System Resilience Fund. As rapid response was a priority, we worked with JMF and HPKF to coordinate a quick grant request and review process, which has been able to deploy funds less than two weeks after organizations were invited to request funding.
And so, last week, the fund awarded $347,000 in grants to 11 organizations:
“We’ve been so impressed by how small farmers and food enterprises across New England have responded to keep their neighbors supplied with healthy food in the current crisis, even as the bigger food distribution system has faltered,” said Whitney Hatch, Board Chair of The John Merck Fund. “We’re very glad to work with Kendall and 1772 to support our grantee partners as they respond to the crisis and as they look ahead for ways to use lessons from the crisis to build a more resilient future. And we hope many others will join us.”
Over the next 12 to 18 months, the New England Food System Resilience Fund hopes to complete an additional two waves of funding for a total of at least $1 million in grants. The next grants to be awarded will focus on organizations working to help food producers restore operations to pre-pandemic levels while the final phase of grants will support longer-term planning needs within the regional food system.
In the coming weeks, KK&P will continue working with JMF and HPKF to design the approach and implementation plan for these next two waves of funding. We look forward to supporting the innovative and responsive thinking of JMF and its partners.