For Grant Seekers

Austin Fresh

Call for Ideas (CFI)


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.

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 on our Apply/Report Here portal. Create a new account, if necessary for your organization, and a user profile(s). Contact Laura Huddleston at for assistance.

2021 Timeline:  Our Call for Ideas process will be open for submissions starting August 2nd. Submissions are due by close of business on August 30th.  You will hear from one of the partners on or before September 20th if we wish to receive a full proposal.  The deadline for full proposals is October 18th.  Grants will be awarded by November 15th. 

About the Collaborating 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.

Read more here about the Lumpkin Family Foundation.

Please direct inquiries on the Austin Fresh to:

Bruce Karmazin

Executive Director
Phone: 217-234-5915

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