Alleviating Food Insecurity: The St. Louis Food Funders Collaborative

May 17, 2017

GCG Member Guest Blog Post

by Rhonda Smythe, Program Officer at Missouri Foundation for Health, and Megan Armentrout, Program Associate at Incarnate Word Foundation

Missouri is the sixth most food insecure state in the United States. More than half—55 percent—of  St. Louis City residents live in areas designated as food deserts by the USDA, while the national average is 23 percent.  To tackle this crisis, three regional grantmakers, Incarnate Word Foundation, Franciscan Sisters of Mary (FSM) and Missouri Foundation for Health (MFH),  banded together in 2016 to collaborate around a shared interest in funding projects to alleviate food insecurity.

Food insecurity encompasses many elements of the food system including access, quality, cost, and sustainability. Each of the funders comes to this work with their own priorities: Incarnate Word Foundation with a focus on community-driven and led projects, FSM on health and healing for all creation, and MFH on improving the health and well-being of individuals and communities most in need.

The Food Funders Collaborative successfully partnered on multiple projects, but found there was a gap in opportunities for smaller grassroots organizations to work on food insecurity. With that in mind, the collaborative created the Innovative Solutions to Food Insecurity competitive grant program specifically for those groups. The grant was designed to engage the community in conversations about food access and develop potential solutions to this issue. Prospective grantees were encouraged to develop pioneering concepts on one or more aspects of food insecurity, with an emphasis on access, sustainable agriculture, and innovative food and nutrition education. Six grants were awarded at $10,000 each.

Awarded ideas for the 2016 grant:

  • A Community MasterChef challenge to help enhance cooking and nutrition knowledge for mothers and families;
  • Timebanking as a way to facilitate trading of knowledge or skills in cooking, gardening, and nutrition;
  • Food pantry collaborations with WIC (special supplemental nutrition program for Women, Infants and Children, chefs for cooking demonstrations, and dietitians to provide nutrition counseling;
  • Faith-based organizing effort to disrupt violence, build trust, and reduce food insecurity by offering healthy brown-bag meals at night;
  • Youth food justice training and community service program in the Dutchtown and Gravois Park neighborhoods; and
  • Container gardening education and supplies offered to food pantry clients to teach and empower people to grow their own food.

To build on this momentum, the Food Funders Collaborative plans to offer this grant opportunity again in 2017. The group welcomes additional funders interested in increasing food security in the St. Louis region; please contact Rhonda Smythe at rsmythe@mffh.org if you’re interested in engaging with the Collaborative.

For more information about St. Louis food deserts, access barriers to healthy foods, and suggestions for municipal strategies to alleviate hunger, please refer to Incarnate Word Foundation’s Food Access in St. Louis webpage. Research on food insecurity was undertaken by Coro Fellows hosted at Incarnate Word Foundation includes an insightful Food Access Ecosystem Map.


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