Socially Just and Ecologically Sustainable Food System

Curated by Kolu Zigbi

The US food system needs to be transformed. It generates one fifth of the nation's jobs but pays the least of all sectors of the economy, with occupations such as farm work exempt from important labor protections. Over 40% of the nation's land is dedicated to agriculture, but too much of it subject to soil erosion and treated with toxic chemicals that pollute groundwater and cause a dead zone of over 8,000 square miles in the Gulf of Mexico. Its abundant harvests are primarily used to produce oils, high fructose corn syrup and processed foods that are implicated in half of all Americans suffering from one or more forms of chronic diet-related disease.

To simultaneously invest in improving public health, protecting our fragile environment, and providing fair working conditions and wages, invest in one of these national alliances and networks working to transform the food system, and invest in their grassroots affiliates and member organizations as well. These groups aggregate grassroots power to influence policy makers, promote cultural shifts, and demonstrate viable alternative practices that can be scaled.

Nonprofits in this fund

National Family Farm Coalition

General Operating

Washington DC 20002 US

National Family Farm Coalition (NFFC) is a coalition of 26 organizations representing farmers, ranchers and fishers, working to renew family farm agriculture and reduce corporate control of agriculture. NFFC is a member of the global Via Campesina network which promotes food sovereignty (the right of each nation to define its own food and agriculture policies). It's members collaboratively organize and advocate to promote fair trade, curtail land grabs, counter the push for genetically engineered foods, and solutions to the dairy crisis, promote local food in the marketplace and viability for next generation family farmers. Governed by leaders from its member organizations, it is responsive to their needs, recently conducting a listening tour in which staff talked with producers at their kitchen tables, on their boats, across the hoods of their trucks, and while walking the fields.

Rural Coalition

General Operating

Washington, DC 20005 US

The Rural Coalition (RC) works for farm policies which provide increased access and support to small scale, limited-resource farmers, ranchers and farmworkers. Their 50 grassroots organizational members represent the ethnic and demographic diversity of the nation, a diversity too often absent from policymaking arenas. RC trains grassroots leaders of its member organizations to engage in the policy process at the local, state and federal levels. RC's members hold regular calls and gather in assemblies to visit members in different regions of the country, learn about local challenges, experience the landscape, appreciate the culture, develop shared advocacy agendas, all the while building unity. Their motto is "Everything grows from the bottom up."

National Black Food & Justice Alliance

General Operation

The National Black Food and Justice Alliance (NBFJA) is comprised of 17 Black-led organizations building capacity for community food sovereignty and self-determination. NBFJA helps coordinate strategies for land retention, promotes skills-building around cooperative economic development, analyzes the racist impacts of food policies, and promotes land liberation and self-determining food economies. It's meetings provide space for Black farmers and food justice organizers to connect and build community. Its blog provides critiques of farm and food policy and supports national initiatives such as the National Prison Strike, while bringing to light the prison and commodity production systems' common roots in Southern plantation slavery. It's website contains a valuable listing of books, videos and organizations.

Food Chain Workers Alliance

General Operating

Los Angeles CA 90010 US

The Food Chain Workers Alliance (FCWA) draws back the veil hiding the invisible workforce that grows and harvests food in fields and in CAFOs, processes food in packing houses and factories, transports and stores food in warehouses, and preparers and serves food in institutions and restaurants. It is comprised of organizations, workers centers and unions, that organize workers, many of whom are immigrants and people of color, across the food supply chain. FCWA counters the power of vertically and horizontally integrated global food corporations by networking groups organizing workers who might touch different brands or suppliers of the corporation at different parts of the supply chain and in different regions of the country. Its members win back wages, expand benefits, and build solidarity. FCWA collaborates with members and independent researchers to produce high quality reports on labor in the food system from which it formulates policy recommendations.

U.S. Food Sovereignty Alliance

General Operating


The U.S. Food Sovereignty Alliance (USFSA) is a partnership between 42 diverse U.S.-based food justice, environmental, labor, religious and trade organizations, and 10 international allies. The majority of its member groups are led by and support communities deeply impacted by hunger and poverty. Its mission is to end poverty, rebuild local food economies and assert democratic control over the food system. The USFSA upholds the right to food as a basic human right and through base building, education and learning exchanges, and advocacy, it is fostering a grassroots movement to hold corporations and our government accountable while also connecting this work to the worldwide movement for food sovereignty. USFSA’s signature event is the annual awarding of The Food Sovereignty Prize, honoring social movement organizing from across the globe and the U.S.. Other activities include the coordination of regional agroecology “encuentros,” to share ancestral and indigenous knowledge and practices around sustainable food production, and working groups that address Land and Resource Grabs, Immigrant Rights and Trade, and Rights of Mother Earth.

Health Environment Agriculture Labor (HEAL) Food Alliance

General Operation

Oakland CA 94612 US

The HEAL Food Alliance (HEAL) is bringing together stakeholders from different sectors around the common ground of food. Its 51 diverse organizational member organizations represent hundreds of producers, thousands of food chain workers, student activists in institutions all over the country, health practitioners and advocates, the many concerned with humane treatment of animals, those fighting to eliminate use of toxic pesticides, and those promoting fair trade. HEAL's Real Food Platform provides an accessible, common sense and inclusive policy agenda, addressing everything from the need for "real food in every hood" to the "phase out of factory farms." Its School for Political Leadership trains cohorts of young leaders on how to build and wield power to implement elements of the Real Food Platform.

Kolu Zigbi's giving strategy

My funding centers around communities impacted by the negative externalities of the mainstream food system, those whose lands were stolen, whose labor was exploited, and whose health was sacrificed. Those communities are geographic, demographic, as well as occupational. Their members have "skin in the game" for change, so their leadership commitment to organizing is long term. I look for organizations that are led by impacted communities and linked together through alliances, coalitions and networks to accelerate shared learning, strategy coordination, and leveraging power at all levels from local to global to influence systemic change. These groups "fight the bad," and they create new infrastructure and enterprises for sustainable and equitable practices.

Values that drive my giving include: 1) Centering impacted people as experts, 2) racial and economic justice.

About Kolu Zigbi

Kolu has 18-years of experience managing grantmaking, providing technical assistance, and convening and evaluating grassroots organizations serving low-income communities and constituencies working at the front lines of the food system and environmental justice. She supports equitable, sustainable, and resilient food-oriented development that spans the rural-urban continuum and builds health and wealth within low-income communities. Kolu developed and directed two three-year, multi-funder initiatives to build the capacity of grassroots organizations serving family farmers and ranchers, farmworkers, food chain workers, “food swamp” neighborhoods, and Native American communities. She raised $2.5 million for these initiatives from eight private foundations. Kolu co-founded Community Food Funders, a philanthropic organizing project supporting the development of a sustainable foodshed for New York City. She also is active in Sustainable Agriculture and Food System Funders group.

18 years of grantmaking experience

Experience at Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation

More about Kolu Zigbi