The $500,000 Food to Market Challenge Picks Its Final Five

by Bob Benenson, FamilyFarmed

Variety is the word for the field of five finalists in the Food to Market Challenge. This competition will award $500,000 to the team deemed to have proposed the best solution to a problem affecting the supply chain for local and sustainable food in the Chicago region.

Yet all five competitors (described below), chosen by a panel of judges from a strong field of 24 entrants, have a common goal: increased supply of — and access to — locally and sustainably produced food in the Chicago metropolitan area, to help create a food system that is healthier, more environmentally sustainable and more economically dynamic.

The Food to Market Challenge logo was projected at a Chicago event held Jan. 27 to launch the project.

The Food to Market Challenge logo was projected at a Chicago event held Jan. 27 to launch the project.

The Food to Market Challenge is a project of Food:Land:Opportunity — Localizing the Chicago Foodshed, a joint effort of  The Chicago Community Trust and Kinship Foundation that is funded by the Searle Funds at The Chicago Community Trust. The competition was launched in January and will culminate in an event on October 26 in Chicago at which the finalists will pitch their proposal and a winner will be selected and announced.

The following (in alphabetical order) are the descriptions of the finalists’ proposals provided by the Food to Market Challenge. Click here to learn more about them, the competition, and the other entries in the contest, including a team organized by FamilyFarmed that proposed to create a regional grain hub.

Chicago Artisan Grain Collaborative: Proposes to create a regenerative food system by building a market for nutrient-rich grains and beans in Chicago. Team members are:

  • Delta Institute
  • Fresh Taste
  • Plough
  • University of Illinois Extension
  • Goldmine Farms
  • Lonesome Stone Milling
  • Baker Miller
  • Floriole
  • Laine’s Bake Shop
  • Publican Quality Breads
  • Gourmet Gorilla
  • Earth’s New Ways
  • Spence Farm Foundation
  • Kendall College
  • The Kitchen Community
  • IDEO

F.O.O.D. — Farm On Ogden Development: Proposes to establish an urban food hub and broad partnership network to develop and support new farmers and distribute 280,000 pounds of produce. Team members are:

  • Chicago Botanic Garden’s Windy City Harvest Program
  • Return to Life
  • Sweet Pea and Friends
  • Cresciendo Farms
  • Garfield Produce
  • Midwest Foods
  • Community Economic Development Association
  • South Loop Farmers Market
  • Lawndale Christian Health Center
  • Brinshore Michaels (developer)
  • SAVOR (caterer)

Fresh Picks Farmer Alliance: Proposes to create a network of on-farm aggregation hubs connecting transportation, information technology, farmer alliances and a distribution partner. Team members are:

  • Irv & Shelly’s Fresh Picks
  • Angelic Organics Learning Center
  • All Grass Farms
  • LotFotL Community Farm
  • PrairiErth Farm
  • Central Illinois Produce
  • Triple S Farm
  • Prairie Fruits Farm
  • Wholesome Harvest

Kane County: Proposes to catalyze a food infrastructure and launch a trading network linking farms and food hubs to customers in the Chicago region through technology and transportation. Team members are:

  • New Venture Advisors
  • Kane County
  • Heritage Prairie Farm
  • Alsum Farms and Produce
  • Wiltse’s Farm

Team Leverage: Bringing It Home: Proposes to create a scalable model to bring local, healthy foods into underserved Chicago communities by partnering a local farm network with Chicago companies who currently deliver local food into schools.

  • FarmLogix
  • Top Box Foods
  • This Old Farm

The Food to Market challenge is among the major projects supported by Food:Land:Opportunity to help promote the growth of the market for local and sustainable food in the Chicago area. These include FamilyFarmed’s Good Food Business Accelerator.

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