March 9, 2021
Strengthening Essex County’s Food System Post-COVID

ECCF announces new Food Systems Resiliency Partnership Grants


Danvers, MA — Food insecurity is among the challenges most exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.


According to Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger relief organization, Essex County’s overall food insecurity rate has increased 72% from 2018-2020, while the child rate has skyrocketed by 123%. Right now in Essex County, 20.6% of children don’t know where they’ll get their next meal.


Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Essex County Community Foundation, a nonprofit serving the 34 cities and towns of Essex County, has granted nearly $4 million in grants to nonprofits working on the frontlines of hunger, reaching 104,000 economically vulnerable families and individuals throughout the region. These came in the form of rapid response grants during the earliest days of the pandemic, and later, grants – delivered through an open application cycle – that addressed longer term needs, both through ECCF’s Essex County COVID-19 Response Fund.


Food insecurity also emerged as a specific area of concern during community convenings hosted by ECCF and held virtually throughout the pandemic.


Today, ECCF is announcing a new COVID-19 Response Fund grant program designed to invest in the development and sustainability of Essex County’s food systems. The new Food Systems Resiliency Partnership Grants, supported by Brace Cove Foundation, are meant to strengthen the local food systems in order to support residents who will continue to be impacted by COVID-19, and invest in infrastructure across Essex County to ensure more just, equitable, innovative and sustainable solutions – now and into the future.


“To effectively solve regional challenges like hunger, we need to look at the issue more holistically,” said Carol Lavoie Schuster, ECCF’s vice president for grants, nonprofit and donor services. “Our intention with this grant program is to inspire collective action, root cause analysis, ecosystem building and systemic solutions that result in programmatic impact and inspire trust and long-term resiliency in the food security sector.”


Letters of interest for Food Systems Resiliency Partnership Grants – which will range from $10,000 – $75,000 – are due April 2; the deadline for final applications is May 7.


Eligible applications must be grounded in data; prioritize seniors, communities of color, underserved youth, immigrants, individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities or other vulnerable populations; and involve a collaboration of two or more organizations, including at least one nonprofit.


Examples of work a Resiliency grant could support include:

  • Shared services of staffing/transportation/delivery of food to organizations in the system.
  • A countywide gleaning effort that reduces waste, focuses on culturally specific food needs and creates jobs.
  • A food system business that harnesses innovative modes of production and distribution that creates jobs in collaboration with local workforce initiatives.


“This work to support the hunger relief sector through a systems lens is very exciting to us as a foundation,” said ECCF President and CEO Beth Francis. “In the last year, we’ve seen how people have come together to effect change, and we anticipate receiving some very innovative proposals that leverage the power of collaboration for the promise of a big impact.”


It’s the type of work that’s needed in a post-pandemic world.


“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need to invest in the food security infrastructure across Essex County,” said Walter Herlihy, director of Brace Cove Foundation. “We are pleased to partner with ECCF on this grant initiative to encourage collaborations between nonprofits, businesses, government and philanthropists.”


For more information on ECCF’s new Food Systems Resiliency Partnership Grants, including priorities and requirements for applicants, please visit


About ECCF

The mission of Essex County Community Foundation is to inspire philanthropy that strengthens the communities of Essex County. We do this by managing charitable assets, strengthening and supporting nonprofits and engaging in strategic community leadership. Since 1998, ECCF and its family of 250 charitable funds have granted $107 million to nonprofits, schools and students in Essex County and beyond. Our ultimate goal is to have 34 thriving cities and towns in Essex County and to improve the quality of life for the region’s nearly 800,000 residents. Learn more at

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