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.


  • 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


Current Status

Every organization supported through the Healthy Food & Community Change initiative has continued high-impact work – in most cases continuing programs that had been started or expanded with the Illumination Fund’s support. Others have adapted their programs and strategies based on what they learned about successes, challenges and changes in the landscape.

For example, City Harvest has continued to adapt its Healthy Neighborhoods model, Green City Force has created combined cohorts of its Urban Farm Corps and its Love Where You Live Corps, which focuses on resident engagement for environmental sustainability, and Wholesome Wave has created and consulted on hospital-based fruit and vegetable prescription programs across the country.

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