City of Pittsfield Awarded Kresge Foundation Grant toward Healthy Food Initiatives

The City of Pittsfield is one of 26 recipients across the nation who will receive grant funding from The Kresge Foundation totaling nearly $2 million in grant funding to develop food oriented initiatives in cities across the nation.

Dubbed “FreshLo” – for “Fresh, Local & Equitable: Food as a Creative Platform for Neighborhood Revitalization” – the initiative is a joint effort by Kresge’s Arts & Culture Program and Health Program. Nonprofit organizations and coalitions from across the nation will receive $75,000 planning awards through FreshLo to design neighborhood-scale projects demonstrating creative, cross-sector visions of food-oriented development. Kresge is the first national funder to intentionally and equitably integrate food, art and community to drive neighborhood revitalization at this scale.

“Food and cultural expression are inextricably tied together, and have been throughout history,” said Stacey Barbas, senior program officer with Kresge’s Health Program.  “FreshLo seeks to use that relationship to help local organizations build creative and invigorating pathways to better health and opportunity in urban low-income neighborhoods.”

In Pittsfield, funds will be designated to the Morningside Neighborhood to organize existing and new efforts to utilize creative food-oriented development to revitalize the neighborhood through entrepreneurial training and support, community public art, and increased access to and knowledge of fresh local foods.

More than 500 organizations applied for FreshLo funding – the most applicants for a funding opportunity in The Kresge Foundation’s 92-year history. The overwhelming response resulted in the Foundation funding six more grants than initially planned. Pittsfield was one of two New England cities to receive the award.

“I am beyond thrilled that the City of Pittsfield was selected for this competitive grant through the Kresge Foundation. We know that having access to healthy foods is essential for all communities throughout the city. These funds will help to remove barriers that would prevent members of our community from enjoying healthy and fresh foods, as well as enhance existing partnerships within the neighborhood.  I’m excited to know that this award, coupled with Tyler Street’s designation as a TDI District, will only serve to further enhance the possibilities and growth for this community,” said Mayor Linda M. Tyer.

The grant was prepared by Megan Whilden, in collaboration with the following organizations: Berkshire Children and Families, Be Well Berkshires, City of Pittsfield departments of Community Development and Cultural Development, Downtown Pittsfield Farmers Market, IS 183 Art School, Pittsfield Economic Development Authority, Shire City Sanctuary, and the Tyler Street Business Group.

 “This grant opportunity linked together several exciting community initiatives that were already happening, bringing together food, art and community in a neighborhood that has so much potential. It creatively brings our strength together as a community,” says Whilden, who served as volunteer grant writer.  “It was the perfect opportunity for Pittsfield at the perfect time, it’s so exciting!”

“The response proved there is an incredible reservoir of untapped potential to blend creative expression and healthy food,” said Barbas. “We expect this is the vanguard of a new movement to put a modern spin on the ancient tradition of using food to express community, social cohesion, artistic flair and cultural identity.”

FreshLo embodies The Kresge Foundation’s philosophy that catalytic change to improve opportunity for low-income persons in America’s cities requires a multi-layered approach – not simply one program or sector working alone. By avoiding prescriptive solutions, Kresge has intentionally sought to encourage an expansive, unique and creative suite of proposals through the FreshLo initiative.

”We’ve given our grantees license and encouragement to think and act in new, groundbreaking and even disruptive ways that lift up and celebrate the unique nature of their communities,” said Helen Davis Johnson, program officer with Kresge’s Arts & Culture Program.

The grants will support project management, partnership development, community engagement, strategic communications, policy development and other activities directly related to successful outcomes.

Other organizations awarded planning grants to develop food-oriented initiatives in their cities include:

Following the planning grant phase, Kresge intends to offer implementation grants for qualifying projects and conduct a comprehensive suite of learning and evaluation assessments to help measure the impacts of the FreshLo initiative and to export learnings to other organizations and community development professionals.

For more information regarding Pittsfield’s grant award, please contact Janis Akerstrom, Community Development, 413-499-9449