Austin Fresh Call For Ideas Now Open



The Builders Initiative, The Christopher Family Foundation, Food:Land:Opportunity, The Lumpkin Family Foundation and the Walter Mander 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, in 2020 we created a one-million-dollar annual fund called Austin Fresh.  Over five years, we will work collaboratively with 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. Learn about the 2020 grantees here.  

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 and nutrition; 
  • Commercial ventures designed to increase access to healthy or local 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 strived to listen and learn from the community in the creation of Austin Fresh, and community representatives will continue to participate in all grant-making decisions. The foundation partners will seek additional ways to learn from and with the people of Austin to ensure that the challenges of providing affordable, plentiful, and healthy food are community-owned and supported.   


Despite its rich history and strong community cohesion, Austin ranks 9th lowest in life expectancy out of 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 foundations in this partnership have been working together for some time, events in 2020 added a fierce urgency to this work. The foundations acknowledge the murder of George Floyd and COVID-19 inflicted a great trauma to the people and organizations of Austin. Our exploration has led us to the wells of talent in the community and a deep appreciation for all of Austin. We hope our investments can lend support to local leaders in ways that tip the scales toward justice and healing.

Goals & Outcomes

Austin Fresh seeks to encourage fulfillment of the goals of  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 501(c)(3) non-profit (or led by one as the anchor applicant of a collaborative project) or operating with a fiscal sponsor.
  • 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 online application system, hosted by Forefront, the fiscal sponsor of Fresh Taste. Register for a new account, if necessary for your organization, or log-in with an existing account. Contact Vanessa Reese at for assistance with the online application system, which has changed platforms since 2020’s call for ideas. See the Austin Fresh FAQs for more information.

Submissions are due by midnight, August 31, 2021. You will hear from us on or before September 20 if we wish to receive a full proposal. The deadline for full proposals is October 19. Grant decisions will be made by a committee of foundation representatives and community members. Grants will be awarded by November 15, 2021. 

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.

Food:Land:Opportunity aims to create a resilient local food economy that protects and conserves land and other natural resources while promoting market innovation and building wealth and assets in the Chicago region’s communities. Food:Land:Opportunity is a collaborative initiative between Kinship Foundation and The Chicago Community Trust and is funded through the Searle Funds at The Chicago Community Trust.

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. 

The Walter Mander Foundation is a medium sized, family foundation which supports Chicago-area organizations working in the areas of community gardening, urban agriculture and community economic development, particularly organizations seeking to strengthen local food and agriculture businesses.   


For general questions or help with the online application system

Vanessa Reese, Fresh Taste,

Specific questions about projects may be directed to any of the partner foundation representatives:

Lenore Beyer, Director of Conservation Initiatives, Kinship Foundation, 

Clare Butterfield, Executive Director, The Christopher Family Foundation,

Bruce Karmazin, Executive Director, The Lumpkin Family Foundation, 

Haven Leeming, Program Officer, The Builders Initiative,

Chuck Wolf, President, Walter Mander Foundation, or Cassandra West: