At Whole Cities Foundation, our champions are community gardeners, urban farmers, nutrition educators and other like-minded community leaders. These are the visionaries creating viable solutions and building momentum towards more equitable and sustainable food systems in their local communities.
Go to Newark, New Jersey, and you’ll see that commitment in action. Years ago, we were looking for an opportunity to help strengthen their local food system, support community self-determination, and ultimately, contribute to a healthy, vibrant Newark. After learning about the city’s needs, desires and strengths, we partnered with our founder Whole Foods Market to launch the Newark Fresh, Healthy Food Access Grant in 2017.
Newark-led organizations with projects that help broaden access to fresh, healthy food or grow community health in one or more of Newark’s five wards are encouraged to apply for the annual grant. The program was tailored to meet a variety of needs from one organization to the next and be flexible enough to be adjusted based on grantees’ changing needs.
Our approach places Newark’s self-determined goals at the center of decisions and respects locals as leaders and co-creators. So, applications are reviewed in conjunction with the with the Newark Community Advisory Council, a panel of engaged Newark leaders. Grantees are determined by the sustainability of their projects and their alignment with our mission.
Grantees have included community gardens, urban farms, farmers’ markets, mobile markets, healthy cooking classes, agriculture-skills development programs, a SNAP incentive project, and other initiatives advancing community health.
Our Director of Programs Dianna Purcell explains, “Powerful change can happen when different strengths and talents come together for a common goal, and that’s what is happening in Newark. A growing network of local gardeners, community leaders and innovators are making real pathways to create a healthy and sustainable local food system from the ground up. Whole Cities Foundation is grateful to play a supporting role through the Newark Fresh, Healthy Food Access Grant program.”
Since 2017, our total investment in Newark has surpassed $1 million. We have awarded Newark Fresh, Healthy Food Access Grants between $5,000 and $20,000 to 33 locally led organizations. We have also provided financial backing for various additional opportunities shaped by the goals and requests of our grant partners.
The 2023 Newark Fresh, Healthy Food Access Grants mark the launch of our three-year commitment to Newark’s food access and community health efforts. This year’s 10 grants average $19,450 each and total $194,500 for the following community partners:
- City Green, Inc.
- Clinton Hill Community Action
- Ellen DeGeneres Urban Farm
- Girls; Live, Love, Laugh, Inc.
- Ironbound Community Corporation
- Kids in Business
- Newark Water Coalition
- Rabbit Hole Farm Newark
- Treehouse Ent & Cultural Arts Movement, Inc.
- Urban League of Essex County
A first-time grantee, The Ellen DeGeneres Urban Farm is located on the campus of West Side High School in the West Ward where they are not only converting barren school grounds into a vibrant farm, they are transforming lives.
“The Ellen DeGeneres Urban Farm produces fresh, organic food and helps to rebuild the local economy by bringing food directly to our local consumers,” said Sandra Ragoo, Executive Director at The Ellen DeGeneres Urban Farm. “Besides fresh, healthy food access, our urban farm impacts the local community by empowering students to have entrepreneurial mindsets, increasing upward economic mobility through job creation, and serving as a model for sustainable environmental practices.”
Learn more about our Newark Fresh, Healthy Food Access Grant program, including a list of past grant partners. The next grant application window will open in early 2024.