Today on the blog we welcome, Kristine Igo, associate director for the Healthy Foods, Healthy Lives Institute at the University of Minnesota and a core group member of MCF’s Healthy Foods, Healthy Communities Funders Network. She tells us about what the network is up to, and invites other funders to its upcoming gathering.
The conversation about local, regional, national and global food systems is growing, and taking place in small communities and urban centers, research and health institutions, big business and local markets.
Nowhere is this more evident than within the philanthropic community, where grantmakers across the country and here in Minnesota are coming together to create alliances and partnerships to support a fair and healthy food future. Philanthropy has long cared about issues of hunger. Today, with the increased commitment to having an impact, that caring has logically moved to broader and more systemic and strategic approaches that require cross-sector collaboration.
It’s amazing how many of the issues funders care about can be connected back to some aspect of the food system. Educational outcomes? Poor nutrition impacts learning ability and concentration. Renewable energy? Small and mid-size farmers are first adopters to renewable energy opportunities including wind and solar to offset farm costs and increase revenues. Community and economic development? Entrepreneurship and small business opportunities abound in urban and rural landscapes as new food businesses and infrastructure are developed to fill the gap between suppliers and consumers.
The Healthy Foods, Healthy Communities Funders Network has sought engagement with grantmaking partners from across the state to work together to improve the health of our environment and reduce economic and health disparities. Similarly, grantmaker networks in other regions have taken up the issue and are bringing food-related issues to a broader spotlight in the field.
The Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers has started a wonderful series on their blog “THE ‘almost’ DAILY WRAG” called “What Funders Need to Know: The Food System”. They will be periodically highlighting various aspects of the food system and sharing examples of work being done and opportunities for funder investment. One wonderful resource they’ve produced so far is this issue brief that summarizes some of what’s been learned through the work of the Washington Regional Convergence Partnership, a project of WRAG.
It’s been exciting to work together with other funders to build a shared agenda around improving our food system, and gratifying to see large and small, private and corporate, state and local government, and other public agencies and institutions engage in critical conversations around developing innovative funding solutions to food system challenges. We have big plans and hope every interested funder will find some common ground with us. To explore what impact your funding organization could have, join us on April 7, 2014 from 10 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. for the MCF Healthy Foods, Healthy Communities Funders Network Convening at Northwest Area Foundation.
P.S. Of course the food will be good food!