Resilience, collaboration, and equity have been vital to understanding and weathering food system challenges in 2020. These core values are at the heart of an initiative Karen Karp & Partners has been helping to design and facilitate this year to reinforce and restore resilience and equity in New England’s regional food system amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Back in Fall 2019, prior to the pandemic, KK&P began working with the John Merck Fund to develop a new initiative to advance a more resilient food system across the New England region. As the COVID-19 pandemic began to take hold in March, JMF and KK&P quickly pivoted to re-frame this new initiative as one that would respond to the challenges posed by the pandemic. JMF partnered with The Henry P. Kendall Foundation (HPKF) and partner foundations, The 1772 Foundation, The Sandy River Charitable Foundation, and The Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation to create The New England Food System Resilience Fund (Resilience Fund). The Resilience Fund released its first wave of funding—11 grants totaling $347,000—in late April. This month, JMF and HPKF announced that the initiative had expanded its scope and is transferring the remaining $650,000 in funds to The New England Grassroots Environment Fund (Grassroots Fund). The Grassroots Fund will assume management of the effort and expand its area of focus to include racial equity.
The Grassroots Fund is known for their innovative, participatory funding models and fierce commitment to racial equity and justice. Creating meaningful change means bringing people together and ensuring the process for who receives grants is just. The participatory process uses an open call for application readers and works with a grantmaking committee to make final decisions on resource allocations. It uses self-identified demographic data from participants to bring together groups with diverse lived experiences and builds skills around bias in decision-making, white supremacy culture, and system change.
KK&P is now working in partnership with the Grassroots Fund to co-create a landscape analysis of New England food systems, which will provide a foundation for the Grassroots Fund’s food system-based funding in the months and years to come. The Grassroots Fund is in the process of hiring a Director of Learning who will play an active role in the development of new programs and pilots as well as in ongoing grant review. The Grassroots Fund anticipates the first round of grantmaking in the spring of 2021; they and their partners hope this initiative can distribute $400,000 annually to support a just, resilient, equitable food system across New England.