Announcing 2018 Seed Fund Grantees

The season of spring is a time of rebirth and renewal, a nod to seeding and blossoming in the natural world. Similarly, it is also the time when a group of RSF colleagues gathers around to review applications for the annual RSF Seed Fund grantmaking program. The RSF Seed Fund awards small grants that range between $500 and $3,500 to initiatives, projects, and programs that are advancing the fields of food and agriculture, education and the arts, and ecological stewardship.

The process begins with the selection of staff participants to the review committee with priority given to those who have not participated in past rounds. Committee members are then trained on the mechanics of scoring applications and record their scores based on a predetermined set of criteria. Once all the scores have been tabulated, the group reconvenes to deliberate and decide on the finalists.

This year’s review committee was presented with an enormous undertaking—selecting a handful of finalists from a pool of over 130 applicants. Proposals were received from across the United States from small fishing villages in Alaska to diverse neighborhoods in New Orleans. Amongst the numerous proposals, a central theme was apparent: access. Projects and initiatives to improve access to healthy food options, economic opportunities, and socially integrative practices in higher education, livelihoods, and indigenous cultures were omnipresent among the candidates.

This unprecedented demand from innovative and diverse organizations required the committee to make difficult choices in determining where grant dollars would make the greatest impact amongst the various projects. One of the many decisions they were faced with was assessing the proposals in an equitable way, despite the varied outcomes, populations served, and purposes of the projects. Despite this incredible task, there was an overwhelming desire from committee members to find ways to connect applicants to funding sources or other partnership opportunities as a gesture to all the good work represented through these applications.

In the end, the committee selected six unique and innovative projects from this varied applicant pool. Congratulations to the 2018 RSF Seed Fund grantees! The six awardees are:

Abarrotes Bondadosa is a social enterprise that provides individuals, families, the elderly, and SNAP recipients with an accessible, affordable and more responsive grocery delivery option. Its focus is on increasing access to healthy food using innovative technology and employing individuals with barriers to employment, while supporting the health equity work of its partner organization, Denver Food Rescue, a nonprofit committed to combatting food insecurity in Denver, Colorado.

Eyak Preservation Council is a grassroots environmental and social change organization dedicated to promoting sustainable communities and protecting and preserving wild salmon habitat and indigenous culture in the Eyak homelands in the small fishing village of Cordova, Alaska. The Community Cold Storage and Kitchen program will offer space, services and market support in a seafood processing facility that will enable subsistence fishers and gatherers an opportunity to increase the quality of their traditional foods and direct-market their seafoods alongside commercial fishers.

Leap Year is an organization whose mission is to prepare young, talented first-generation students to succeed in college and become leaders in their communities through a paid community service gap year program. Through its fellowship program, students are provided a second chance to fulfill their academic and leadership potential by providing a full year to solely concentrate on preparing for college and the future. Fellows spend equal time on tutoring and college readiness training, and as paid AmeriCorps members, they are giving back to their community through service-learning initiatives. Having gap years and the ability to go to college when ready is an opportunity rarely available to youth who need it the most.

The Freedom Food Alliance works to unite urban and rural communities to use food and land as tools to end mass incarceration by simultaneously keeping prison families connected and providing them with healthy food and working to change unjust policies. They support agricultural worker-cooperative courses and opportunities for people in prison and returning citizens in the Hudson Valley of upstate New York. The goal of their programming is to provide economic opportunities and pathways to ownership of social enterprises and support communities of healing and transformative justice in relationship to land for people returning from the prison system.

The Nashville Food Project is an organization that brings people together to grow, cook, and share nourishing food, with the goals of cultivating community and alleviating hunger in Nashville, Tennessee. Their market garden program, Growing Together, expands access to land, agricultural training, and economic opportunity to New Americans from agrarian backgrounds. The program currently supports farmers who have arrived in the U.S. as refugees from Burma and Bhutan.

American Friends Service Committee New Orleans—Peace by Piece influences and mobilizes Black youth and young adults through political education and community organizing to realize sustainable, sovereign, and equitable communities rooted in self-determination and community control. Peace by Piece offers free after-school programming and summer camps in New Orleans’ Hollygrove and Desire neighborhoods. The program engages neighborhood youth to address disparities in food access by building sustainable green spaces, such as the Hollygrove Community Garden. It provides safe gathering spaces for young adults by reinforcing the viability of unused lots for community enrichment and improving food security and sustainability.

And thank you to all the applicants for your participation in the RSF Seed Fund!

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