Case Studies

Healthy Food & Community Change


There are vast disparities in diet-related diseases across neighborhoods. In fact, communities plagued by high rates of poverty, poor education, and unemployment are often the same neighborhoods where obesity and diabetes are rampant.

In 2013, the Illumination Fund developed Healthy Food & Community Change, a $15 million, 5-year commitment for healthy food programs in New York City. Healthy Food & Community Change supported organizations working to:

  • improve access to healthy food;
  • address health and access disparities;
  • provide nutrition education;
  • generate food-sector jobs and train a new workforce;
  • use food and food policy as tools to strengthen communities;
  • develop future leaders; and
  • advance knowledge and practice


Through Healthy Food & Community Change, the Illumination Fund supported more than 40 nonprofit organizations directly and dozens more through collaborative initiatives. Grants supported work through 2019.

The Fund’s leadership was catalytic for organizations and agencies citywide. The Fund was the first foundation supporter for several major initiatives, providing early funding that enabled promising programs to come to fruition. In other cases, particularly with smaller organizations, the Fund’s support helped existing programs to expand their reach and organizations to build capacity.

Highlights included:

  • Teachers College at Columbia University created the Laurie M. Tisch Center for Food, Education & Policy
  • LISC NYC embedded healthy food initiatives into community development corporations
  • City Harvest increased the scale of its Healthy Neighborhoods Initiative and developed new strategies
  • United Neighborhood Houses piloted a new settlement house resident engagement model for healthy food in public housing
  • Green City Force and the Fund for Public Health in New York City developed a novel public housing-based urban agriculture and job training program
  • Hostos Community College launched the first community college-based Associate Degree in food studies
  • The New York City Food Policy Center at Hunter College and the City University of New York’s Urban Food Policy Institute conducted evaluations, conducted policy research, disseminated analyses and evidence to inform public policies, and created pipelines of new leaders.
  • Wholesome Wave, the New York City Health + Hospitals system, Mount Sinai Hospital and Memorial Sloan Kettering launched new partnerships to combat food insecurity and diet-related diseases

The Illumination Fund amplified its impact by serving as a connective thread for its larger network of grantees, partners, policymakers, leaders and funders. The Illumination Fund’s non-grantmaking strategies included: convening grantees and policymakers to share successes and challenges and learn new skills from each other; connecting grantees with each other for research, counsel and collaboration; facilitating partnerships with policymakers to expand impact; undertaking communications to amplify the grantees’ programs; participating in philanthropic and food policy networks to monitor trends and identify opportunities to build collective impact and serve as a resource to other funders and organizations.

To learn more, visit the about the Healthy Food & Community Change report [link].