What is the Community First Grant Program?

The Community First Grant Program is a new Whole Cities Foundation initiative designed to support Whole Foods Market Team Members who are actively engaged with community partners that increase fresh, healthy food access in neighborhoods with few options.  

Download this FAQ page.

Download a one-pager about the program.

Watch a short video about how we build Community First partnerships.

How does it work?

The program has a simple two-step application process:

1. A Team Member completes an application in support of a community partner focused on fresh food access in their city.

2. If the Team Member’s application is selected, then the community partner is asked to complete a Community First Grant Application.

How do I apply?

1. Talk with the community partner you are recommending, let them know about the program and ask if they are interested.

2. Make sure that you can answer “yes” to all of the eligibility requirements before applying.

3. Ask your Team Leader to complete the Team Leader Support Form and send it to grants@wholecitiesfoundation.org by Friday, June 15th. 

4. Start the application. Tell us about yourself, your team, your store, your city, and the community partner you are recommending. You will need to create a login and password to access the application. You can save your application and come back to it before completing. Complete your application by 11:59 pm CST on Friday, June 15th.

Who Can Apply? 

Team Members and community partners must meet the eligibility criteria below to be considered:

Team Members

  • Must be a current WFM Team Member in good standing
  • Team Leader must submit a Team Leader Support Form
  • Must be able to volunteer personal time to their recommended community partner outside of working hours at WFM
  • Must complete a Team Member Community First Grant application by June 15th

Community Partners

  • Must be a 501c3 nonprofit organization
  • Must focus on expanding fresh, healthy food access to families and neighborhoods with limited options
    • WCF supports community partners who are locally led with leadership that reflects and engages those being served. We support community partners that strengthen self-reliance and self-determination. 
    • We generally do not support food banks and other projects with a food redistribution model.
    • We generally do not support projects focused primarily on children.
  • Must complete a Community First Grant Application
    • This simple application will include questions regarding the community partner’s work, leadership, impact, community engagement, long-term plans, and finances.

What is the application timeline?

May 1:  Team Member Community First Grant application opens

June 15:  Team Member Community First Grant application and TL Support Form due

August 1:  Notification sent to Team Member applicants; Team Members will be notified if their application has been selected. If selected, your community partner will be asked to complete a grant application.

September 17:  Community Partner Community First Grant Application due. This application will include questions regarding the Community Partner’s mission, programs, leadership, impact, community engagement, sustainability, and finances.

November 1:  Notification sent to Community Partner applicants. Community Partners will be notified if they qualify for a grant. Team Member applicants will receive notification if their Community Partners have been approved. 

Can I apply if I have already participated in the Community First Grant Program?

Yes! We welcome applications from Team Members who are new to the program as well as those who would like to participate again. 

Can I recommend a Community Partner who has already received a grant from Whole Cities?

Whole Cities can provide funding to a Community Partner for up to and no more than 4 years. We focus on funding capital investments to support the long-term success and self-sufficiency of a program well after our grant concludes. 

What is expected of Team Members who participate in the Community First Grant Program?

Every partnership is unique and is determined by the Team Members and Community Partner involved. Some Team Members volunteer regularly on their Community Partner’s urban farm while others give periodic technical assistance on a Community Partner’s mobile market. The options are endless. Click here to see examples of qualified community partners.

Whole Cities loves hearing about these partnerships and understanding how we can continue to support the expansion of fresh, healthy food access. We will ask Team Members involved in the program to submit a status and final report that includes photos and a progress update on the partnership.

Do other Team Members need to be involved with the community partner for me to apply?

We have seen amazing results when Team Members work collectively with community partners. Only one Team Member needs to complete the application, however, projects are more successful when multiple people are involved. It is important that Team Members are not pressured into volunteering and that they understand that WFM and WCF will not provide compensation for the time they spend volunteering.

Can individual Team Members receive funding from Whole Cities Foundation?

No. We do not award grants to individuals. However, a nonprofit organization led by a Team Member would be eligible to apply for funding.

Does my community partner have to be a 501c3 nonprofit organization?

WCF can only award grants to qualified 501c3 nonprofit organizations. However, if an exceptional and innovative organization is connected to a fiscal agent that has 501c3 status, there are options we can consider. 

What if our team wants to volunteer for a community partner but needs help finding one that is a good fit?

In this case, fill out the Community First Application and type “looking for community partner” in the “Community Partner’s Name” field. Please tell us about the kind of community partner you are looking for in the field “Please briefly describe your community partner's mission, project activities and goals.” WCF may be able to offer support with finding a good fit.

What if my Team Member application is selected but the community partner I recommend does not qualify or is not a good fit for Whole Cities?

If your application is selected, Whole Cities will work with you to find a community partner who will be a good fit for your passion and Whole Cities’ mission.

What is a “community partner”?

A community partner is a nonprofit organization that is led by community members in your city. A community partner understands the assets, needs, and goals of local residents and uses this knowledge to direct and shape its work. Click here to see examples of qualified community partners.

Why do I need my TL to complete a form?

Projects thrive when multiple Team Members are engaged. Your Team Leader needs to be aware and supportive of your efforts to involve other interested Team Members in your community partner’s project. It is important that Team Members are not pressured into volunteering and understand that WFM and WCF will not compensate for volunteer time.

Can Team Members outside the United States apply?

Unfortunately, no. This opportunity is only available in the United States at this time. 

Can Team Members who work outside the stores complete a Community First Application?

Yes! We welcome applications from all Team Members located in the U.S. who meet the eligibility requirements.

Are stores that participate in the Community First Grant expected to donate food, money, or in kind donations to a community partner?

No. Every partnership is unique and is determined by the needs and desires of the store and community partner involved. Stores and Team Members should not feel pressured to donate food, funds, or other in kind donations to their community partner.