Vision and History

City Farm, Chicago

Who We Are
Fresh Taste is a staffed funder initiative formed in 2002 by a group of Chicago-based foundations and city officials interested in changing how food is produced, processed and consumed in the Chicago region. From an initial group of five, Fresh Taste now has more than ten members and continues to grow. In 2008, Fresh Taste hired Karen Lehman who, with over 30 years of food system experience, directs Fresh Taste and provides strategic guidance for our work. Collectively, between our individual grantmaking and Good Food Fund grants, Fresh Taste members have awarded over $23 million for food system work from 2007 to 2015.

What We Do
Fresh Taste Initiative members support food system work in three fundamental ways:

  • We fund a professional staff to advance our work
  • We make grants individually through each of our foundations
  • We make grants through the Good Food Fund, a pooled fund we established in 2010 to support work that we believe to be of systemic importance, but that lies outside our individual geographic or programmatic priorities

Fresh Taste envisions a regional food system characterized by significant production of, and equitable access to, good food. By “good food” we mean food that:

  • Promotes responsible land and water stewardship
  • Provides fair value to all of those working throughout the production and distribution system
  • Is reasonably affordable
  • Promotes health
A map of the Chicago foodshed, roughly 225 miles in any direction from the city. A foodshed is an area from which any given population has the capacity to source much of its food.

A map of the Chicago foodshed, roughly 225 miles in any direction from the city. A foodshed is an area from which any given population has the capacity to source much of its food.

Our focus is the Chicago foodshed, an area extending roughly 225 miles around Chicago, from which we believe much of the city’s food could be sourced. Besides Illinois, the Chicago foodshed includes parts of Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, and even Minnesota. If the productive capacity of the Chicago foodshed were fully realized, it could satisfy a significant percentage of the region’s food demand, promote a healthy working landscape, and stimulate our economy.

And Why
Chicago is nestled in one of the most diverse and abundant food-producing regions in the world, with good soil, plentiful water, experienced farmers, and innovative enterprises. The demand for food produced sustainably in the region is growing, creating opportunity for new farmers and businesses to produce more.

And yet, the capacity to supply this growing market is lagging behind demand, even as the existing food system fails to serve the needs of hungry people or to compensate those who work hard in the fields, processing facilities, restaurants, and food retailers with their fair share of the food dollar. One in seven Illinois residents is unsure where or when they will receive their next meal. Fifty percent of U.S. farmers are likely to retire in the next decade. Devastating climate impacts—droughts, floods, extreme cold, to name a few—are hitting home.

Fresh Taste embraces both the opportunity and the challenges that the emerging regional food system presents.

Learn more about Our Work with Philanthropy and Our Work with Community.