How the Better Food Policy Fund is Shifting Resources and Power to Communities Striving for Food Justice

Climate Justice | Individual and Family Donors | Collective Action Fund

Tides Foundation partnered with an individual donor to launch the Better Food Policy Fund, a grantmaking initiative working hand in hand with impacted communities to create a more equitable community food system and advance food justice.


Food policy is complex. It spans across rural and urban communities, addressing issues from land use to urban markets, and impacts everyone who eats. Countless communities, especially  in high-poverty areas, have limited access to affordable and healthy foods. In rural areas, farmers are contending with the rising cost of supplies, water shortages, and finding markets for their products. As a result, it has never been more critical to increase food security and civic engagement through stronger food councils that address the nation’s inequitable food system, which often leaves Black and Brown communities, food workers, and farmers more vulnerable.  

After spending 20 years in the food security space, our partner recognized that local advocates and civic leaders are best positioned to develop these policies because they know what’s needed to advance food justice in their own communities. Partnering with Tides, she sought to:

  • Map the food policy landscape to better understand critical areas in need
  • Engage community advocates within and beyond the Tides network
  • Develop a fully participatory grantmaking strategy for impacted community leaders to have a say in how funding is designated

Tides Solution: Collective Action Fund

Our partner’s commitment spurred the Better Food Policy Fund, a Tides-managed collective action fund. With an initial commitment of $1.5 million, the fund provides innovative support for food policy councils working with and through both community members and local government to push food policy forward.

Tides collaborated with a community food policy expert who:  

  • Recruited the perspectives of over 400 advocates
  • Created a collaborative, participatory grantmaking process 
  • Established an independent advisory committee of food justice leaders 
  • Provided guidance on financial and compliance requirements to support grantmaking 


The Better Food Policy Fund’s early learnings offer powerful insights into what it will take to provide equitable food systems across America. 

Individual Food Councils Know What They Need to Strengthen Community Food Systems

Every food council has a different recipe for success, and the councils themselves know how to achieve food justice when they have the funding to advance their solutions. That’s why the Independent Advisory Committee for the fund consists of food policy advocates from around the country and why members of the committee created the fund’s first guidelines for grant recommendations and later launched a better food policy website. 

Transparency and Patience are Key to a Participatory Process

Participatory grantmaking doesn’t mean everyone agrees. By putting relationships at the center of the work and holding space for sometimes vastly different opinions, the fund is fostering connections and coalitions among local food justice advocates. These partnerships have resulted in a shared understanding between community members and local governments of what is needed to push food policy forward. 

Engaging Other Donors to Strengthen Food Policies 

Some donors struggle to shift their decision-making power to affected communities. But doing so is central to equitable grantmaking. Through the fund, our partner is working to educate other funders about the importance and the impact of the participatory process, and not just the donation itself. 

Interested in Partnering with Tides? 

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