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 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.


Funders join Mayor’s office and UMSL to create opportunities for student summer employment

December 10, 2012

How does a group of concerned citizens affect dramatic change in our city? One job at a time.

Youth Jobs Logo


StL Youth Jobs is a collaborative effort with the Mayor of the City of Saint Louis, University of Missouri Saint Louis, The Greater Saint Louis Community Foundation, Incarnate Word Foundation, the United Way of Greater Saint Louis, and various civic minded contributors.  The purpose of StL Youth Jobs is to curb city youth crime by increasing the availability of youth summer employment for the 2013 summer school break.  This pilot program will be data driven and focus on a placed based, neighborhood approach to systemic change.  By helping 500 16-23 year olds find meaningful employment next summer, we are helping young people gain valuable work skills before entering the workforce.

What does this mean? Focused resources.

The cost for this kind of work is $2,000 per student.    To raise the needed $1M and to see the greatest effect, StL Youth Jobs identified the neighborhoods with the greatest number of unemployed teens.  The data shows, they also happened to be neighborhoods of high crime.  These areas are in two city neighborhood clusters, one north and one south.  The North Cluster consists of Baden, Mark Twain, O’Fallon, and Penrose.  The South Cluster consists of Dutchtown, Gravois Park, and Tower Grove East.

How can you help? Visit to learn more.

Together we can impact our city.  Last year only 29% of the city’s 20,000 teens were employed – down 10% from 2010.  These numbers are much lower than the national numbers:  the Department of Labor reports that only 45% of youth between the ages of 16 and 24 were employed by the end of summer 2011. Only 21% of  low-income families were employed by the end of summer of 2011.  Students want to work – let’s help them.

– – Justine Craig-Meyer

Thanks to Uboon2 ( for helping to develop the STL Youth Jobs brand and logo.

Opportunity to join next Digital Storytelling class starting Friday August 10

July 31, 2012

The Incarnate Word Foundation is underwriting a new Digital Storytelling class, and you may meet the criteria of living or working in one of the following zip codes: 63103, 63104, 63106, 63108, 63110, 63112-63115, 63120, 63121, 63130, 63132-6313 and 63147.  If you do please read the following information.  For a general background on Nine Academy please visit this URL

The Incarnate Word Foundation would like to identify community members living and/or working with North St. Louis organizations. The organizations can be 501c(3) nonprofit charities, church and faith based ministries, and/or individuals doing the good work for the betterment of their communities.  The ideal participants will be from organizations that believe that they can use the digital storytelling skills learned in our workshop to improve the effectiveness and reach of their organization. Participants can be any individual involved in the organization that would be interested and excited about learning these skills and will continue to put the skills to use. Class participants can be staff, volunteers, board members, clients or youth (16 years or older only) involved in the community and/or your organization. Due to limited funds, we are asking that each organization sends only 2 individuals to class.  Priority is given to community members who have never taken a Nine Academy class during the past 12 months and all participants must apply online for a seat in this next round of classes.  (To apply click

The next Digital Storytelling class is scheduled for the following dates:

  • Friday August 10 – 9am to 3pm with 3pm to 5pm for open lab hours
  • Friday August 17 – 9am to 3pm with 3pm to 5pm for open lab hours
  • Friday August 24 – 9am to 3pm with 3pm to 5pm for open lab hours
  • Friday August 31 – 9am to 12pm with a 12 noon to 1pm public screening  Read the rest of this entry »

2nd Annual Marketplace of Ideas Community Funding Program

April 17, 2012

The Incarnate Word Foundation is excited to announce the second annual Marketplace of Ideas. The Marketplace of Ideas is a small grants community funding program sponsored by the Incarnate Word Foundation with the support of other local funders that aims to spur collaboration between community stakeholders, to uplift the community’s solutions to community problems, and to provide publicity to the richness of community activity in North St. Louis. The success of the 2011 pilot program encouraged the Incarnate Word Foundation to continue the Marketplace of Ideas as an annual funding program.

The Marketplace of Ideas is a competition that challenges grassroots organizations working in North St. Louis communities to propose a solution to a community need. The solution must involve a collaboration of at least two community stakeholders (nonprofit agencies, neighborhood groups, schools, religious groups, government agencies, etc…). Proposals will be reviewed and vetted by a panel of community judges that will select up to seven finalists. The finalists will then present their proposals to a panel of local funders, who will award additional funds to the projects with the potential to achieve the greatest community impact. All finalists will receive a cash award from the Incarnate Word Foundation and have the opportunity to receive additional cash awards from other local funders.

How to Apply

New Report from the Center- Measuring the Work of Intermediaries in the St. Louis Region

April 5, 2012

Measuring the Work of Intermediaries in the St. Louis Region is a new report released by the Gateway Center for Giving (the Center) encouraging funders and intermediaries to think about intermediary nonprofit organizations and their outcomes differently as well as explain how these two groups can partner successfully to create change. The Center worked over the course of eight months with its funding partners, a steering committee, and a group of key stakeholders to develop this guide and engaged in conversations with over 35 individuals from funding and intermediary organizations in an attempt to understand how these two groups can better communicate with one another and understand each other’s needs.

What is an intermediary? An intermediary exists between organizations that have resources and the organizations that need resources. Local intermediaries are a means of efficiently and effectively connecting and delivering a range of support services for the nonprofit community. Typically local intermediary organizations engage in one or more of the following tasks: Read the rest of this entry »

Scenarios for Success- Early Childhood Learning Conference– March 30-31

March 20, 2012

Scenarios for Success: How multi-level relationships and connections enrich our work in early childhood— March 30-31
Presented by the Incarnate Word Foundation and the Regional Early Childhood Education Council 

Click here to register.
Click here for the full agenda. 

Who should come?
The conference, Scenarios for Success, is for you if you are an administrator, educator, or specialist working in early childhood education. You may come from a for-profit or not-for profit, from an early childhood center or a home based program. The conference will help program leadership have a better understanding of management practices needed for sustainability. This conference will also help program staff discover useful, best practices to support children’s social-emotional development. Practical strategies will help you build strong relationships with your families and your community partners, particularly with your school district. Read the rest of this entry »

St. Louis Microfinance Conference In Review

October 17, 2011

Attendees of last week’s first ever St. Louis Microfinance Conference got to hear from practioners, participants, and researchers about the innovative work happening around microfinance locally, nationally, and global.   The conference was hosted at UMSL and sponsored by the Incarnate Word Foundation, Citi Community Development, the Nonprofit Management & Leadership at UMSL, and the  Public Policy Research Center at UMSL.

The keynote speakers for the event were exceptionally qualified to speak about global microfinance and they included Robert Annibale (Global Director of Citi Microfinance and Community Development), Pamela Flaherty (President of Citi Foundation), and Michael Sherraden (Founding Director of the Center for Social Development at George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University).  By far the best part of the conference though were the panels that featured local organizations doing amazing working in microfinance and asset building.  It was amazing to hear about how much work was being done locally around microfinance and hear the excitement from the ~150-person audience. We heard from a range of local organizations including justine PETERSEN, the Incarnate Word Foundation, the International Institute, Assets for Independence, Beyond Housing, micrOlin, and others.

The conference organizers did a great job of both getting the audience involved and educating the attendees.  Each registration fee ($25 per person) was put towarsd Micro-Investment Grants of $1,000 that will be used to assist in advancing local and global microfinance programs.  Thirteen different organizations were competing for grants and attendees were allowed to vote once to determine who would get the funding.  The three winners were:

  1. North Grand Neighborhood Services
  2. Center for the Acceleration of African American Business
  3. Osman Sapir, Beekeeping Apprentice (International Institute supported business)
Click here for more information about these three organizations and the other organizations that were competing for funding.

Each attendee at the conference all received a thumb drive with a TON of articles and reports about microfinance.  Hopefully the information contained on that drive will soon be made available on the St. Louis Microfinance Conference website so the public can benefit from that information.

Overall it was a really fascinating conference that inspired the audience to learn more about microfinance globally and get involved locally. For more information about the conference click here.

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