For Grant Seekers

Austin Fresh

Call for Ideas (CFI)


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.

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. Our work in Austin 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, healing, and equitable access for all.


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

Goals and 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 2021’s call for ideas. See the Austin Fresh FAQs for more information.

Key Dates

Submissions will be accepted in August 2023. Check back for specific dates. Grant decisions will be made by a committee of foundation representatives and community members.

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.

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 projectsmay 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, 

Please direct inquiries on the Austin Fresh to:

Monique B. Schlichtman

Chicago Program Officer
Phone: 773-420-7047

Amount Donated
Grants Awarded

Our Recent News Articles

Currently no news articles available

Austin Fresh Grantees

  • Austin Fresh 2021

    Westside Health Authority

    For the continued partnership with Forty Acres Fresh Market toward construction of a brick-and-mortar grocery store, specifically for marketing outreach and purchase of equipment once construction on the store is complete.

    Lumpkin Family Foundation portion: $98,948

    View Westside Health Authority's Website
  • Austin Fresh 2021


    For the coordination of activities at all of the Austin-based community gardens and the development of one additional Peace Garden.

    Lumpkin Family Foundation portion: $15,351

    View NeighborSpace's Website
  • Austin Fresh 2021

    Bethel New Life

    For phase 1 of their Mildred Wiley Wellness Hub at the Beth Ann Campus. The wellness hub will include gardens, a sunroom for senior residents to enjoy and for the processing of vegetables, and nutrition education in partnership with the Illinois Extension Service.

    Lumpkin Family Foundation portion: $33,372

    View Bethel New Life's Website
  • Austin Fresh 2021

    Faith in Place

    For additional costs associated with rezoning and completing the build-out of a certified kitchen at Greater St. John Church, which will be open to the community for development of commercial food products, cooking classes, and sanitation certification for those seeking employment in the food industry.

    Lumpkin Family Foundation portion: $5,577

    View Faith in Place's Website
  • Austin Fresh 2021

    Beyond Hunger

    To train nutrition ambassadors who can provide cooking instruction and nutrition information focused on how to prepare healthy meals with the food available from emergency supply, in a partnership with New Moms.

    Lumpkin Family Foundation portion: $4,672

    View Beyond Hunger's Website
  • Austin Fresh 2021

    BUILD, Inc.

    For the redevelopment of the Iris garden and associated programming, at Michele Clark High School (temporary location) and ultimately as it returns to the location of their completed new facility.

    Lumpkin Family Foundation portion: $30,035

    View BUILD, Inc.'s Website
  • Austin Fresh 2020

    BUILD, Inc.

    To expand their iris garden and involve more youth in its care, as well as to add some gardening efforts off-site, where youth will work with elders in the community to grow food.

    View BUILD, Inc.'s Website
  • Austin Fresh 2020

    Westside Health Authority

    To support collaboration with Forty Acres Fresh Market, an existing for-profit fresh market concept, to move them into a permanent space and provide a full-service produce store in Austin.

    View Westside Health Authority's Website
  • Austin Fresh 2020


    To provide technical assistance in building capacity among the Austin community's network of gardens with needed infrastructure installations and improvements that will optimize production of fresh, locally grown vegetables and enable each garden to activate plans for community-managed spaces that addresses residents’ needs for safe gathering places and inter-generational community building.

    View NeighborSpace's Website
  • Austin Fresh 2020

    Austin Coming Together

    To support coordination efforts on all food-related work in Austin as it pertains to the community’s quality of life plan, including community gardens, grocery stores, food cooperatives, and restaurants. The funding will also help to build the collective, positive narrative of the changes coming to Austin.

    View Austin Coming Together's Website
  • Austin Fresh 2020

    Faith in Place

    To build out a commercial kitchen at Greater St. John Bible Church where residents can obtain their sanitation certificates and caterers can execute contracts in a legally licensed kitchen.

    View Faith in Place's Website
  • Austin Fresh 2020

    GAP Community Center

    To teach children from the north end of Austin to cook, and to build a bridge between Austin’s Black population and the growing Latino population on the north end of the neighborhood.

    View GAP Community Center's Website
  • Austin Fresh 2020

    By the Hand Club for Kids

    To expand their Austin Harvest pop-up market from a 12-week pilot last summer to a year-round program making low-cost produce available in the community and teaching entrepreneurialism to the youth.

    View By the Hand Club for Kids's Website