Announcing Austin Fresh: A Call for Ideas

mushroom tomato plate

The Christopher Family Foundation is excited to be part of a new partnership we’re calling Austin Fresh, designed to improve access to fresh and healthy food in the Austin neighborhood on Chicago’s west side. Here is our call for ideas.


The Builders Initiative, The Christopher Family Foundation, and The Lumpkin Family Foundation want all Chicago communities to thrive. We are united in the belief that access to healthy, affordable food is a human right and critical to community health.  We envision an equitable Chicagoland region in which all people have knowledge of and access to healthy food. 

To this end, we have created a one-million dollar annual fund.  Over  the next five years, we will work collaboratively among ourselves and our partners to expand healthy retail options, support community gardens and local food production, grow food enterprises, and protect and strengthen food assistance programs in the Austin neighborhood on Chicago’s West Side.

We are issuing this call for ideas to elicit projects and encourage collaboration among organizations and people who know the Austin landscape and understand the requirements for success.  Examples of the types of ideas we would welcome include (but are in no way limited to):

  • Community food gardens which increase access to healthy, affordable food; 
  • Neighborhood or school habitat projects that support food production (e.g. pollinator gardens) or which give residents greater access to nature (even if they aren’t directly related to food production);  
  • Community kitchens and other processing enterprises that add value to food and empower entrepreneurs to build businesses and create jobs;  
  • Food cooperatives; 
  • Nutrition education or cooking classes focused on the preparation of fresh and healthy meals, or community cooking efforts, in which the effort of creating prepared meals is shared, to make it easier for families to eat well;
  • Food as medicine approaches to health which focus on diet; 
  • Commercial ventures designed to increase access to healthy food while building the economy of the Austin community (provided a non-profit organization is the applicant).

We believe in a place-based model of funding. We aim to listen to communities first and support community-owned solutions to affordable and plentiful, healthy food.


Despite its rich history and strong community cohesion, Austin ranks 9th lowest in life expectancy in Chicago’s 77 community areas. It also ranks among the highest in the Healthy Chicago 2.0 Hardship Index.  Austin envisions a better future. Its community-driven Quality of Life Plan states emphatically that Austin can become known as a vibrant, healthy community—from good food to open space (13). 

We agree. In line with the Quality of Life Plan’s Strategy 3.2, this call for ideas seeks to promote healthier food choices across Austin, and green up shared spaces, further  increasing the community’s access to nature. 

While the three foundations in this partnership have been working together for some time, recent events have added a fierce urgency to this call for ideas. The death of George Floyd, and the subsequent uprisings around the country and in Chicago, make plain the need to place Austin on a more just and equitable footing with regard to food access — and in every other way.  Our exploration of the community,  limited as it has been by COVID-19 safety precautions, has led us to wells of talent and a deep appreciation for the people and organizations of Austin.  We hope our investments can lend support to local leaders in ways that tip the scales toward justice and healing.  

Goals and Outcomes

The CFI seeks to encourage Austin’s Quality of Life Plan Strategy 3.2 by supporting organizations working to do the following in Austin:

  1. Expand healthy food options,
  2. Expand land access for greening and food production,
  3. Develop education or nutrition assistance, 
  4. Build food-related or nutrition-education related enterprises,
  5. Build the Austin economy through food-related enterprises.


All applicants must be:

  • A 501c3 non-profit (or led by one as the Anchor Applicant)
  • Located and operating in Austin
  • Anchor applicants must be led by members of the affected community
  • Organizations that are actively and always trying to learn from their work, and improve their approaches, even if that involves risk
  • Organizations that are open to shared learning and working collaboratively

How to Submit

Ideas can be submitted through a short form at the Lumpkin Family Foundation on-line portal. Create a new account, if necessary for your organization, and a user profile(s). Contact Laura Huddleston at for assistance. 

Submissions are due by close of business, September 9th.  You will hear from us on or before September 30th if we wish to receive a full proposal.  The deadline for full proposals is November 10th.  Grants will be awarded by December 4th. 

About the Foundations

 The Builders Initiative works to realize a humane and healthy planet, while changing markets and minds for good. We champion communities, people, and ideas on the frontiers of change. At TBI we see our role as taking risks, laying the groundwork, and establishing the baseline for change and scale to come.

The Christopher Family Foundation strengthens communities and families through a lens of access and equity. Rooted in a Christian perspective, we use our grant-making to foster creativity and innovation and to build capacity and collaboration in our areas of funding priority.

The Lumpkin Family Foundation supports people working together to create healthy, sustainable communities in east central Illinois and across the US.  Our interest in Austin arises from family members who live in and care deeply about the health and vitality of Chicago.   

Contact for Questions 

Questions may be directed to any of the foundation representatives. Contact information is as follows:

Clare Butterfield, Executive Director, The Christopher Family Foundation:

Bruce Karmazin, Executive Director, The Lumpkin Family Foundation: 

Haven Leeming, Program Officer, The Builders Initiative: