Food Access

Building resilient Communities

After the tumultuous year of 2020, Groundwork staff realized that the short-term synergistic efforts of the Local Food Relief Fund needed to continue, but with a sustainable, capacity-building approach that works to bring stability to the food system. By combining this idea with strategies learned from Groundwork’s five-year Building Healthy Communities partnership, Building Resilient Communities aims to support food access and farming initiatives with funding, project planning, and staff consultation for hyper-local community solutions.

BRC is based on the fundamental principle that a micro-grant, along with project support and strategy, can have an outsized impact in moving the mission of an organization forward. For example, a commercial grade food processor in a church kitchen can meaningfully increase the amount and quality of food served at their weekly meals, potentially improving food security in a community. A cooler or freezer unit can dramatically change the kind of items a food pantry provides, expanding beyond heavily processed, shelf-stable items to fresh fruits and vegetables. With funding and human capital, more objectives can be achieved and more lives can be changed.

Individuals or organizations interested in potentially becoming a BRC site can fill out our intake form to indicate your interest. Once completed, a Groundwork staff member will follow up with you. If you have additional questions or want more information about the program, contact Christina Barkel, Food Equity Specialist, at or 248.229.5653.

What is Building Resilient Communities?

Building Resilient Communities (BRC) is a pilot program at Groundwork that connects resources to community needs in northwest Michigan. Through small grants and staff consultation, we collaborate with food pantries, churches, farms, schools, and other community-focused sites to grow their capacities to positively impact their communities from the ground up. This program builds from our recent success with the Local Food Relief Fund, a COVID-19 response that crowdsourced funds for emergency food providers to be able to purchase local produce and other foods to distribute at meal sites and food pantries. This effort was initially meant to be short-term, so Groundwork sought to translate this impactful project into long-term work that sustains and supports food access efforts and other community initiatives. Combined with strategies learned from Groundwork’s five-year Building Healthy Communities partnership with the Health Department of Northwest Michigan, BRC aims to increase the availability of local foods and to foster environments that support health and nutrition. 

What is Groundwork’s role in Building Resilient Communities?

BRC provides the "brick and mortar" infrastructure and planning support for community members to take ownership of a project and maximize its reach. We combine food access knowledge we’ve cultivated over the years with research, community input, staff consultation, and funding to develop feasible, site-specific solutions to local problems. While this pilot program is currently focused on food and farming-related initiatives, we see the potential to expand with clean energy, transportation, community design, and other infrastructure projects. 

What does Building Resilient Communities do for the community?

BRC sites receive project planning and financial support from Groundwork that will allow them to develop infrastructure and policy changes dedicated to sustained success into the future. Examples of successful past projects include a school cafeteria purchasing a food processor to cook meals from scratch, while prioritizing local options when sourcing fresh produce; a food pantry purchasing grocery store shelves to prominently display fruit and vegetable offerings, while adopting nutrition guidelines for future food procurement; and a senior center purchasing a range, salad spinner, food sealer, educational materials, and healthy food signage, while committing to increasing fruit and vegetable intake, reduced sodium, and homemade healthy meals. In the long run, BRC aims to promote consumption of healthy, local foods; build agency of food service workers; lower the incidence of chronic diseases; contribute to strong local economies; and establish cross-sector relationships for vibrant, livable communities.

How is Building Resilient Communities Funded?

Financial support from our partners at the Michigan Health Endowment Fund, Charlevoix County Community Foundation, Petoskey-Harbor Springs Area Community Foundation, and Hestia Women's Giving Circle made BRC's pilot year possible. An anonymous donation facilitated by the Chicago Community Trust greatly increased Groundwork's capacity for the program, funding 20 project sites throughout northwest Lower Michigan and allowing Groundwork to hire a part-time BRC Project Coordinator. 


Funding Partners