A “food system” includes all activities involving the production, processing, distribution, purchase, consumption, and disposal of food. Due to the vast network of people, places, and entities involved, a food system is intricately linked to many (if not all) other systems and institutions in a society. For more reading, please visit this page from CFF member GRACE Communications Foundation.
Because the food system permeates so many aspects of daily life, many philanthropic organizations may be active in food system funding even if that is not a stated goal of their grantmaking. For example, a foundation focused on alleviating poverty may fund health and nutrition workshops, or one focused on youth development may fun urban agriculture projects with young people.
As a result, we have made efforts to come up with a distinct categorization system that aims to include all aspects of food system work, and thus grantmaking efforts in those areas as well. While this system is not perfect, and assuredly won’t match perfectly the way all foundations describe their work, we use it to group funders in our Food Funder Directory. We also use these focus areas to categorize the many news stories, resources, and events that get posted to this website. To view all content in any given focus area, click on the name of that focus area below.
Please use the contact us page to provide feedback on our categorization system. We are constantly striving to better reflect the many aspects of food systems work in our region.
This term comes from CFF co-founder Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation, and implies a collective effort to redirect or change parts of the food system that is important to community members. It differs from food sovereignty (exemplified by La Via Campesina movement) in that it is not necessarily all encompassing leading to control and autonomy over all aspects of a food system including trade policy. Rather, this designation refers to the self-determination of communities to define what is important, and to have the ability to change those aspects that are deemed unsatisfactory.
Refers to the creation, preservation, and continued viability of agricultural land, and the ability of current or new farmers to have access to these lands to keep them in production.
Refers to the movement of locally produced goods from small and mid-sized producers to institutional customers such as school systems, universities, and hospitals.
Refers to the many ways in which food enterprises receive funds to start, maintain, or grow their business. Such mechanisms may include slow money or impact investing, program related investments, or community loan funds.
Refers to the rights and well-being of the 20 million people employed by the food system in the US (one-sixth of the entire US work force). These workers range from migrant farm workers, to food packers and truckers, to grocery sales clerks and restaurant staff, and all the people in between.
Refers to the issue of food insecurity in which people do not have reliable access to sufficient food.
Refers to issues faced by marginalized populations as it relates to food production, such as barriers to entry, maintaining control of farmland, and discrimination or oppression.
Refers to everything that is required to get food from the farm to your plate. This includes processing, aggregation, distribution, storage and more. Food hubs fall under this category, though the category implies more than just food hubs.
Refers to education around food and health issues, including cooking, nutrition, food science.
Refers to the environmental and ecological issues that arise with conventional farming, and the practices performed to mitigate some of these problems. Organic and biodynamic farming would fall under this category, as well as permaculture.
Refers to policy on all levels that impact our food system, and the community organizing and advocacy aimed at changing or shaping these policies.
Refers to efforts undertaken to improve public health and access to nutritious foods.
Refers to the practice of growing food in urban and suburban settings, most often on a smaller scale than rural farms.
Refers to the final step in the food system, discarding of food waste. Compost is the practice of letting food scraps break down organically to be used as fertilizer and returned to the soil.
Refers to youth development efforts that are undertaken through the lens of any of the above categories in a food system. For example, training youth to be leaders and give cooking classes in their communities, or grow food in urban gardens.