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Whole Cities Foundation Gives Grants To Help Grow Local Food Systems

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Austin, Texas-based Whole Cities Foundation announced Feb. 12 that 60 Community First Grants will be awarded this winter to nonprofit organizations in the U.S. and, for the first time, in Canada.

Whole Cities Foundation is a nonprofit that works alongside community-based organizations to improve neighborhood health by broadening access to fresh food and nutrition education.

The Community First Grant Program is designed to support Whole Foods Market team members engaged with nonprofits in their areas.

Throughout the duration of the grant year, these team members foster relationships with their grant partners through volunteer opportunities and additional support for the organizations’ goals.

Each grant partner will receive $5,000 to support projects that create long-term healthy food access solutions for a total investment of $315,000.

Projects from this year’s grant partners include: 16 community gardens; 14 urban farms; nine agricultural skills development programs; five mobile markets; five healthy cooking programs; six SNAP and WIC incentive programs; two healthy, affordable restaurants; two farmers markets; and one pop-up market.

Nonprofits receiving grant funds are located across the U.S., with the first Canadian award going to support the Public Health Association of BC in Vancouver, B.C. The association will use the funding for its Can You Dig It program, which transforms communities by creating sustainable and inclusive neighborhoods through community gardens.

“At the heart of the Community First Grant Program is a deep respect for the powerful work that already exists in local food systems and a desire to amplify these community-led efforts,” said Nona Evans, executive director of the foundation. “So our partnerships start with our Community First Principles—listening to neighborhood challenges, recognizing what already works well and expanding on the solutions set in place by the community.”

Since launching the Community First Grant Program in 2016, the foundation has awarded 186 grants in 100 cities, investing $940,000. To date, more than 140 team members from 70 Whole Foods Market stores and 11 regional offices have participated.

Steffany Villalobos, local forager with the Whole Foods Market Southwest Regional Office, helped secure a grant for Bonton Farms, an urban farm in southeast Dallas, where she has been volunteering for more than a year.

“For me, the most exciting part of the Community First Grant is being able to bring to life Whole Foods Market’s core value of caring for our communities and the environment,” Villalobos said. “The grant allows us to take our commitment outside the four walls of the store, connect with our local community, be part of the conversation and support solutions that improve access to fresh, heathy food.”

Whole Foods Market team members in the U.S. and Canada can nominate eligible nonprofit organizations in their cities for a grant each spring. If a team member’s nomination is selected, the community partner will be asked to complete a grant application.

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