Whole Cities’ steadfast goal is to create opportunities that work for the communities we serve.  So, our support in Newark is shaped by input from local farmers, gardeners, politicians and other community leaders entrenched in grassroots efforts. By listening to these experts, we have gained insight on how to best amplify their efforts. The Newark Fresh, Healthy Food Access Grant exemplifies this commitment.


Newark Fresh, Healthy Food Access Grant

After learning about Newark’s needs, desires and strengths, we partnered with our founder Whole Foods Market to launch the Newark Fresh, Healthy Food Access Grant in 2017. Its goal is to strengthen the local food system, support community self-sufficiency and self-determination, and ultimately, help create a healthier Newark. 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.


The Grant Process

Each year, Newark-led organizations with fresh, healthy food access and community health projects are invited to apply for funding between $5,000 and $20,000.

Clinton Hill Community Action Farmers

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 Newark Community Advisory Council, a rotating panel of Newark leaders. The council’s community members have each lived and/or worked in Newark for an average of two decades. (Meet last year’s Newark Community Advisory Council.)

Newark Fresh, Healthy Food Access Grantees are determined by the sustainability of their projects and their alignment with our mission. We prioritize food access work by locally driven nonprofits that reflect and engage the Newark community. 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.

Over the past six years, Whole Cities has invested more than $1 million in 33 organizations across all five wards. We have awarded Newark Fresh, Healthy Food Access Grants between $5,000 and $20,000 and have also provided financial backing for various additional opportunities shaped by the goals and requests of our grant partners.


Going Further

Kids In Business

Whole Cities’ support in Newark extends beyond the Fresh, Healthy Food Access Grant. We also help create and financially support opportunities shaped by the goals and requests of our grant partners.

“Whole Cities is committed to offering responsive support shaped by the specific needs and reflecting the desires of the communities we serve,” explains our Director of Programs Dianna Purcell. “We listen to our partners’ challenges and goals in order to provide resources, information, and programs that meet these priorities.”

Newark Community Food System, Garden Hours and the 2023 Newark Partner Summit are three such examples in Newark.

Newark Community Food System

In 2018, Whole Cities and our community partner Newark Science and Sustainability Inc. united to support the launch of Newark Community Food System, a non-partisan, grassroots collective that supports and develops sustainability efforts in urban agriculture, wellness and nutrition founded by highly engaged community leaders. The nonprofit empowers residents to become actively involved in reshaping their food system, while gaining control of their health and environment. (Learn more about Newark Community Food System.)

Garden Hours

Then in 2019, many Newark partners expressed the need for additional strategic support. In response, Whole Cities launched Garden Hours, a program for our recent grant partners to receive free, one-on-one mentoring from Newark community leaders. These are opportunities to get guidance in overcoming challenges, setting/reaching goals, direct resource support, and knowledge sharing. Currently, the Garden Hours’ mentors are local urban agriculture experts Tobias Fox, Founder and Managing Director of Newark Science and Sustainability, and Charmaine La Fortune, Executive Director of Giving One Tenth Community Garden. (Learn more about Garden Hours.)


The 2023 Newark Partner Summit

More recently, we asked community members for feedback on future opportunities so that the Whole Cities team could reflect on ways to evolve our support.

The most common request we received from our Newark partners was for more opportunities to connect with other local organizations and learn new skills. With this in mind, we hosted a one-day summit for our grant partners on October 14, 2023. The schedule was shaped by partners’ feedback and included professional development (hydroponics and healthy cooking) workshops, ​​networking, and sessions on how to take advantage of existing opportunities, such as the Newark Community Food System and Garden Hours.

Participant feedback after the event indicated that the summit facilitated connections and opportunities to explore how to work together and share resources, knowledge and support.

Keven Porter, Founder of four-time grantee Rabbit Hole Farm Newark, reported, “The summit was important. We all were able to see the value of our work and that we all love our work. After the summit, we were able to connect with one another at our farms and plan on working together this season.”

Anthony Diaz, Executive Director of first-time grantee Newark Water Coalition, said, “It was great to meet new people and see some familiar faces in a setting that wasn’t too work related. It felt like a gathering of friends rather than a grantee summit.”

Participants also expressed interest in more opportunities for one-on-one time, and we’ve noted that for future gatherings.


More Community Gatherings

The summit overlapped with other exciting community gatherings that week, which included Whole Cities and Whole Foods Market Team Members.

While in town, Dianna attended the Council of New Jersey Grantmakers’ Newark Funder Affinity Group meeting, which focused on Newark’s strategic plan to end chronic homelessness. While Whole Cities doesn’t focus on homelessness, we know that food access affects and is affected by many other aspects of life including housing. Dianna was impressed by the strides the city has made and their ambitious plans to collaborate with the private sector, non-profit organizations, and the state and federal government. She appreciated learning about other funders who are investing in Newark because, “All boats rise with the tide, and the more collaborations we can be a part of, the more impact our dollars can have.”

Newark Whole Foods Market Store Team Members also held a volunteer day with five-time grantee Newark Science and Sustainability in The People’s Garden, a community garden which helps to provide fresh, healthy food to over 100 families in the Newark community.


The 2024 Newark Fresh, Healthy Food Access Grant is Now Open

Powerful change can happen when different strengths and talents come together for a common goal, and that’s what is happening in Newark. Interested in joining this community of visionaries creating viable solutions towards a more equitable and sustainable food system?

Locally led organizations with projects that broaden access to fresh, healthy food or nutrition education in one or more of Newark’s five wards are encouraged to apply online for the Newark Fresh, Healthy Food Access Grant from January 22 to February 19, 2024.

Ten organizations will be offered unrestricted funding from $5,000 and $20,000 for a total $200,000.

Learn more about our Newark Fresh, Healthy Food Access Grant program, including the application process and a list of current and past grant partners.

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