Illinois Equitable Access Towards Sustainable Systems (IL-EATS), funded by LFPA

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boxes of locally grown vegetables of carrots, onion, radishes, cabbage, greens
Supporting local farmers as we provide fresh food to underserved communities in Illinois

Illinois-EATS is an opportunity to unite Illinoisans invested in building a resilient food system and build a collaborative network of food system support. This program prioritizes ensuring culturally responsive fresh foods are available to food insecure communities.

We are excited to announce the organizations funded to be Lead Agencies for the IL-EATS project.

Northwest IL

  • Northern Illinois Food Bank
  • Jo Daviess Local Foods LLC
  • Farmers Rising (formerly Angelic Organics Learning Center, Inc.)

Northeast IL

  • DeKalb County Community Gardens
  • Northern Illinois Food Bank
  • Think Regeneration NFP/Run A Way Buckers Club Inc.

Cook County

  • Black Oaks Center for Sustainable Renewable Living
  • In His Hands Resource Center Inc./ Top Box Foods /Midwest Foods
  • Greater Chicago Food Depository

West Central IL

  • Think Regeneration NFP
  • Midwest Food Bank
  • Central IL Foodbank, Inc.
  • St Louis Area Food Bank

East Central IL

  • Eastern Illinois Foodbank
  • Midwest Food Bank Bloomington
  • Northeast Community Fund

Metro East St. Louis

  • St. Louis Area Food Bank
  • Operation Food Search

Southern IL

  • Tri State Food Bank
  • St Louis Area Food Bank

Farmers and Community Partners are still able to connect with Lead Agencies if they are interested in participating.

Office Hours

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Office hours are back! Illinois Extension is hosting virtual office hours to answer your questions. Whether you’re already participating as a farmer, lead agency, or community partner or are new to the program and want to learn more, the IL-EATS team is here to help. Join us Tuesdays between 11 am -1 pm from May 28 through June 25. Register here: https://go.illinois.edu/il-eats-office-hours

 

 

To participate

For growers and producers

To sell your products to IL-EATS, you must be a socially disadvantaged grower or producer located in Illinois. 

 

Products must be on the  Allowable Foods List and be grown or produced within Illinois. Lead agencies will purchase products from farmers at  Fair Market Value.  

 

If you want to sell your products to this program, you MUST partner with a lead agency. If you would like support connecting with a lead agency, please contact us at uie-lfpa@illinois.edu

 

For more a comprehensive guide to participating in the program, review the Farmer Welcome Packet . The Welcome Packet covers the IL-EATS food safety and labeling requirements, how to use Fair Market Value, and overall is a helpful resource for farmers selling their products to IL-EATS.  

 

On April 9, Illinois Extension hosted a Farmer Welcome Webinar to provide an overview of IL-EATS, cover food safety requirements, discuss the ins and outs of Fair Market Value, and answer questions. Watch it here: https://mediaspace.illinois.edu/media/t/1_gapd4vv1

 

Socially disadvantaged growers/producers that fall within one of these categories are eligible to participate:

  • American Indian or Alaska Native
  • Asian
  • Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander
  • Black / African American
  • Latine/o/a
  • Refugee
  • LGBTQ+
  • Veteran
  • Female business owner
  • Greater than 50 miles (or 30 minutes) to nearest distribution point (farmers market or market opportunity)
  • Qualify for benefits based on income (low socioeconomic status)
  • Person with disabilities
  • New farmer/rancher (USDA definition is under 10 years)
  • Business is located in one of the following high-vulnerability counties (as determined by the CDC’s Social Vulnerability Index): Champaign, Coles, Cook, Douglas, Fayette, Franklin, Jackson, Jefferson, Kane, Kankakee, Knox, Lake, Lawrence, Macon, Marion, Massac, Morgan, Peoria, Perry, Pulaski, Rock Island, Saline, St. Clair, Stephenson, Union, Vermilion, Warren, Wayne, Winnebago

For community partners distributing food

Food purchased through project IL-EATS must be distributed to underserved communities at no cost. With support from their lead agency, community partners will distribute foods purchased through IL-EATS to their communities. 

 

If your organization wants to distribute IL-EATS foods, you MUST partner with a lead agency. f you would like support connecting with a lead agency, please contact us at uie-lfpa@illinois.edu.  

 

For a more comprehensive guide to participating in the program, review the Community Partner Welcome Packet. The Welcome Packet covers IL-EATS food safety requirements and helpful tips, the Allowable Foods List, and the Cultural Food Guide. Overall, it is a helpful resource for community partners distributing local food products.  

 

Below are some examples of ways that food can be distributed to consumers in need. This list is not exhaustive, and we are encourage communities to be creative.  

Organizations that are going to distribute food in underserved communities should meet the following criteria: 

  • Have the infrastructure to accept and store foods (at no cost to the CBO) per current food safety guidelines
  • Have relationships with individuals and families facing nutrition insecurity in underserved communities and be able to provide justification of how they meet this requirement  
  • Have the customer base to use or distribute the food in a timely manner to ensure zero waste  
  • Be available to meet the needs of the community members and neighbors to ensure equitable access to food  

The following are resources to help determine if your community is underserved 

Make connections - Lead Agencies

The following lead agencies have been funded for IL-EATS. If you would like to collaborate with any of the organizations listed, you are encouraged to contact them directly. If you’d like support in making connections contact us at uie-lfpa@illinois.edu.

Northwest Illinois

Farmers Rising (formerly Angelic Organics Learning Center)

Farmers Rising builds sustainable local food and farm systems through experiential education and training programs in partnership with rural and urban people. Open to partnerships up to 1 ½ hours from Rockford, Illinois.

1545 Rockton Rd, Caledonia, IL 61011
Phone: 360-649-0650 | Email: allyson.r@farmersrising.org

Jo Daviess Local Foods

We operate an online farmers' market and a Farm to Food Pantry Program in Jo Daviess County, with additional pickup locations in Stephenson and Carroll Counties.

Elizabeth, IL 61028
Phone: 815-990-5374 | Email: erin@jdlf.org

Northern Illinois Food Bank

Northern Illinois Food Bank is a food bank that serves 13 counties in Northern Illinois. Open to partnerships up to 2 hours from location.

273 Dearborn Ct, Geneva, IL 60134
Phone: 630-443-6910 x140 | Email: mloeffl@northernfoodbank.org

Northeast Illinois

DeKalb County Community Gardens

DeKalb County Community Gardens (DCCG) empowers people to access healthy and sustainably grown foods and addresses the root causes of hunger. Open to partnerships up 1-2 hours from location.

2280 Bethany Rd. DeKalb, IL 60115
Phone: 815-739-0044 | Email: hedwards@dekalbgardens.org 

Northern Illinois Food Bank

Northern Illinois Food Bank is a food bank that serves 13 counties in Northern Illinois. Open to partnerships up to 2 hours from location.

273 Dearborn Ct, Geneva, IL 60134
Phone: 630-443-6910 | Email: mloeffl@northernfoodbank.org

Run-A-Way Buckers and Think Regeneration NFP

Run-A-Way Buckers organization provides fresh non-pesticide produce and non-hormonal pastured farm-raised chickens. We provide fresh produce to our local veterans, seniors and disabled, schools, and food pantries; educate the youth in the community on basic agricultural and animal husbandry practices; and we provide an intern and mentoring program. Run-A-Way Buckers and Think Regeneration have reached their maximum capacity of partners at this time. 

Think Regeneration
501c(3) supporting farmers and ranchers to create a more equitable, regenerative food supply.

Cook County

Black Oaks Center

The mission of Black Oaks Center is to facilitate local food system development from Pembroke to Chicago. Open to partnerships up to 2 ½ hours from location.

6735 S South Chicago Ave
Phone: 773-410-3446 | Email: blackoakscenter@gmail.com

Greater Chicago Food Depository

The Greater Chicago Food Depository started to nourish our neighbors at risk of hunger, and as the needs of our neighbors have evolved, so have we. To achieve our mission of ending hunger, we work with a network of community-based organizations and individuals to connect our neighbors with healthy food, lift our voices and advance solutions that address the root causes of hunger – poverty, systemic inequity, and structural racism. The Greater Chicago Food Depository has reached its maximum capacity of partners at this time. 

Midwest Foods, In His Hands Resource Center Inc., and Top Box Foods

Midwest Foods is a woman-owned produce distributor serving food service sectors like hospitals, schools, and restaurants with a focus on quality, food safety, and customer service. We are relational, not transactional, and our local mission is to support local farmers and strengthen our regional food system. Connect with Midwest Foods if you’re a farmer.  

3100 W 36th Street Chicago, Illinois, 60632 
Phone: 773-927-8870 | Email: alexf@midwestfoods.com 

 

The mission of In His Hands Resource Center is to facilitate and sustain human and economic viability in underserved communities and act as a common navigator for small businesses. Open to partnerships up to 2 ½ hours from location. Connect with In His Hands Resource Center if you’re a community partner.  

1200 Ring Rd. Suite 2374, Calumet City, IL 60409 
Phone: 312-768-3871 | Email: ihh.nfp@gmail.com 

 

Top Box Foods offers fresh produce and other healthy groceries to support community partners in nutrition and hunger initiatives through grocery boxes, customizable programming, and flexible delivery options.  

 

West Central Illinois

Central Illinois Foodbank, Inc.

Feeding America network food bank. The Central Illinois Foodbank has reached its maximum capacity of partners at this time. 

Midwest Food Bank

As a faith-based organization, Midwest Food Bank’s mission is to share the love of Christ by alleviating hunger and malnutrition locally and throughout the world and providing disaster relief, all without discrimination. Open to partnerships up to 2 ½ hours from location.

9005 N. Industrial Rd. Peoria, IL 61615
Phone: 309-691-5270 | Email: mhatfield@midwestfoodbank.org

Think Regeneration NFP

Think Regeneration

501c(3) supporting farmers and ranchers to create a more equitable, regenerative food supply. Think Regeneration has reached its maximum capacity of partners at this time. 

St. Louis Area Food Bank

St. Louis Area Food Bank serves 26 counties, including 12 in Southwest Illinois. Our vision is a nutritionally secure Missouri AND Illinois, and we are actively looking to partner with local farmers and growers across Southwest Illinois to support the residents of Illinois with locally grown, healthy foods. St. Louis Area Food Bank has reached its maximum capacity of partners at this time.

East Central Illinois

Eastern Illinois Foodbank

EIF serves food to those in need in 18 counties in Eastern Illinois. Eastern Illinois Foodbank has reached its maximum capacity of partners at this time.

Midwest Food Bank - Bloomington Normal

As a faith-based organization, Midwest Food Bank’s mission is to share the love of Christ by alleviating hunger and malnutrition locally and throughout the world and providing disaster relief, all without discrimination. Open to partnerships up to 2 ½ hours from location. 

Warehouse Road, Normal, IL 61761 
Phone: 309-663-5350 x 110 | Email:  jhanson@midwestfoodbank.org 

Northeast Community Fund

Northeast Community Fund is a social service organization serving Decatur and Macon Counties that provides financial support and resources to move people out of poverty.  

839 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr., Decatur, IL 62521
Phone: 217-429-5846

Metro East St. Louis

Operation Food Search

With a strategic focus on ending childhood hunger, Operation Food Search (OFS) empowers families and increases access to healthy and affordable food in 40 Missouri and Illinois counties. It approaches food insecurity from an “upstream” perspective by addressing immediate need through 168 community food distribution partners, shopping/cooking/nutrition education, and food as medicine/advocacy work to foster systemic, sustainable solutions. Open to partnerships up to 1 hour from location.

1644 Lotsie Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63132
Phone: 314-726-5355 | Email: brian.desmet@operationfoodsearch.org

St. Louis Area Food Bank

St. Louis Area Food Bank serves 26 counties, including 12 in Southwest Illinois. Our vision is a nutritionally secure Missouri AND Illinois, and we are actively looking to partner with local farmers and growers across Southwest Illinois to support the residents of Illinois with locally grown, healthy foods. St. Louis Area Food Bank has reached its maximum capacity of partners at this time. 

70 Corporate Woods Drive, Bridgeton, MO 63044
Phone: 314-292-6262 | Email: MKNOPP@STLFOODBANK.ORG

Southern Illinois

St. Louis Area Food Bank

St. Louis Area Food Bank serves 26 counties, including 12 in Southwest Illinois. Our vision is a nutritionally secure Missouri AND Illinois, and we are actively looking to partner with local farmers and growers across Southwest Illinois to support the residents of Illinois with locally grown, healthy foods. St. Louis Area Food Bank has reached its maximum capacity of partners at this time. 

Tri-State Food Bank, Inc.

A member of the Feeding America network of food banks, Tri-State Food Bank collects and disburses food to partner agencies and feeding programs assisting food-insecure families. Open to partnerships up to 1 ½ hours from location.

2504 Lynch Road, Evansville, IN 47721
Phone: 812-303-3558 | Email: glennroberts@tristatefoodbank.org

Food safety requirements

Growers and food handlers will need to meet minimum food safety standards for the project and are expected to continually maintain best practices for food safety throughout the life of the program and beyond. All growers and producers must follow state and federal requirements for their products. Depending on where the food is being distributed, additional food safety standards may be required.

Fruit and vegetable growers

Growers selling produce to IL-EATS must provide a certificate from an approved safety course (e.g. Produce Safety Alliance Training on the FSMA Produce Safety Rule, GAP, third-party certifications, etc.) OR complete one of the food safety training options listed below. Fruit and vegetable growers who do not hold one of the approved food safety course certifications listed above must register for food safety training within 60 days of their contract start date. All training options offered by Illinois Extension are offered at no cost. Additional sessions may be scheduled as needed.

 

Available starting March 2024: Produce Food Safety Bootcamp on Learn @ Illinois Extension

This is an online course that includes reading, watching videos, answering questions, and a short quiz. This course is a great option for growers who are starting their food safety journey and want to meet the basic food safety requirements to sell produce as part of IL-EATS but are unable to attend a live class. The module course is expected to take approximately 2-3 hours to complete. Registration is ongoing. Register here: https://go.illinois.edu/produce-safety-course

 

NEW! June 10 2024: Virtual Produce Food Safety Bootcamp on Zoom

This course is an excellent option for growers who are starting their food safety journey and want to meet the basic food safety requirements to sell produce as part of IL-EATS. The session will be hosted on Zoom from 10 am - 12 pm on June 10. Growers must attend the entire training to meet the IL-EATS food safety requirement. This is a limited class size. Registration closes on June 7, 2024. Register here: https://go.illinois.edu/produce-safety-bootcamp-june

 

Producers

All producers selling their products to IL-EATS must meet the federal and state requirements for that product. Below is a list of some of the state of Illinois’ requirements for selling eggs, meat, poultry, fish, juice, dairy, and value-added products. This is not a comprehensive list. More information can be found on the Illinois Department of Agriculture website or in the Illinois Farmers Market Food Safety Guide.

  • Eggs: Must have an Illinois Egg Handler’s License
  • Meat and poultry: Use of IDOA or USDA-licensed processors
  • Fish: Processed in an inspected facility using a HACCP plan
  • Juice: Processed in an inspected facility (HACCP regulations apply if selling wholesale)
  • Dairy: Processed in a department/state-licensed facility
  • Value-added products:
    • Maple syrup: Bottled in an inspected facility
    • Canned goods: Made in an inspected facility & must meet pH requirements

Lead agencies and community partners

Sites that will distribute IL-EATS food must have at least one employee who has completed a Food Handler’s training, ServSafe, Food Service Sanitation Manager Certification, or Certified Food Protection Manager training. If sites need this training, they are short (30 minutes) and affordable ($10). Options for taking the training already exist, including this at-your-own-pace module. More information can be found on the IDHS website. Please reach out to uie-lfpa@illinois.edu if cost is a barrier to receiving this certification.

Additionally, Extension is excited to offer the below option at no cost for organizations that require Food Handler training.

March 28, 2024: Virtual Food Handler’s Training on Zoom

Join Illinois Extension virtually on March 28 from 10:00 am – 12:00 pm to learn about current food safety procedures and ensure that the food you serve is wholesome, safe, and at low risk of causing food-borne illness. Topics will include food safety and risks, proper storage of food, cleaning and sanitizing, food preparation, loading and transportation, and handwashing and proper hygiene.

After completing the training, you will receive a three-year Food Handler certificate from the Illinois Department of Public Health and meet the food safety requirement to distribute food for IL-EATS. Register here: https://go.illinois.edu/foodhandler

Local Food Purchasing Allowable Foods List

For a complete list of foods eligible to be purchased with LFPA funds, please review the Illinois Local Food Purchasing Allowable Foods List. If you would like to request an addition to this list, contact us at uie-lfpa@illinois.edu. Requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Culturally responsive foods

Illinois is committed to using LFPA funds to provide culturally responsive foods to underserved communities. Growers, producers, and food access organizations are encouraged to review the Cultural Food Guides for a list of culturally requested foods in their area of the state.

Fair Market Value

Products will be purchased from growers and producers that participate in the program based on the prices in the Fair Market Value List. The purpose of this list is to ensure a fair and consistent price for Illinois farmers selling their products to IL-EATS. Prices are estimated to be wholesale or better. Growers and producers must receive at least the minimum Fair Market Value price for their product, but may request a higher value in the range to offset costs associated with: 

  • Transportation 
  • Organic/regenerative/humane production practices 
  • Packaging 
  • Processing 
  • Aggregating 

Fair Market Value prices will not change for the duration of IL-EATS, except in the event of extreme market changes. New products will be added as needed.  

What is LFPA?

The United States Department of Agriculture established the Local Food Purchasing Assistance program to strengthen statewide food systems over two years. Funds will buy food from socially disadvantaged growers/producers and distribute it at no cost to community members. Illinois is committed to sourcing 100% of products from socially disadvantaged growers/producers and encouraging the distribution of culturally responsive foods. The primary goals of LFPA are:

  • To support local and socially disadvantaged growers/producers by building and expanding their economic opportunities to get their products to markets.
  • Establish and broaden partnerships with growers/producers and the food distribution community to ensure distribution of fresh and nutritious foods to underserved communities.

During the first part of 2023, 30 listening sessions were conducted across Illinois to collect feedback about how to best use the Local Food Purchasing Assistance funds. Over 300 community members attended the listening sessions, and more than 150 potential partners were identified. Read a high-level overview of what we learned from the listening sessions. For a comprehensive summary of what we learned from our community in the listening sessions about the strengths and needs of the Illinois food system, read our full report.

Funding

Where does it come from?

Funding for the LFPA program is authorized by the American Rescue Plan (ARP) as part of the “Build Back Better” initiative. The money will flow form the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to institutions in the state. In Illinois, funds will be received by the Illinois Department of Agriculture and distributed by the Illinois Department of Human Services.

How much funding?

Illinois is expected to receive $28 million to be used over two years.

How is the funding going to be distributed?

Graphic adapted from Iowa LFPA, iowalfpa.org

Interested lead agencies will coordinate with socially disadvantaged growers/producers and community partners that distribute food to underserved communities (e.g. food pantries, mobile markets, nonprofits, etc.) to submit a grant application. Funding will be awarded from the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) to selected lead agencies throughout the state. Lead agencies will provide payment to the growers/producers. Community partners will distribute the food to community sites/members at no cost.

 

 

 

 

What can funding be used for?

Most of the funding must be used to buy locally produced fresh or minimally processed foods. Illinois is committed to purchasing these goods at fair market value. Examples include fruits and vegetables, grain products, meats, beans or legumes, dairy products, and pre-determined specialty products such as honey and tomato sauce. Some funds are available to cover expenses related to administering the program, coordination, storage, and distribution.

Frequently Asked Questions about LFPA

What is the minimum and maximum award?

Applicants can apply for awards from $150,000 to $2.5 million.

How many awards will be given out? How will awards be distributed?

For award distribution, Illinois is divided into seven regions. Each region can receive a pre-determined number of awards based on population density for those needing food.

Do growers or producers have to be a specific size or produce a certain number of pounds to participate in LFPA?

Regardless of how much they produce, growers and producers of all sizes are encouraged to participate. We encourage you to partner with lead agencies and community partners with similar capacities or capacities that can handle cold storage and distribution for your amount of product.

Can I participate if I don’t qualify as socially disadvantaged?

Currently, we are focused on sourcing from socially disadvantaged growers and producers. We encourage you to consider participating in the Local Foods for Schools Cooperative Agreement Program or the Farm to Food Bank Program.

Do I have to be in Illinois?

All food products purchased with Illinois LFPA funds must be grown and produced in Illinois. Participating lead agencies and community partners must distribute that food to underserved communities in Illinois.

What are my options for transporting food?

How food is transported depends on the capacity of the partners within your region. We encourage you to collaborate with your lead agency and community partners to leverage resources. Some funding is available to rent the infrastructure needed to transport or store products and to cover the cost of associated services/personnel.

What quality of food is acceptable?

Food purchased with LFPA funds is intended to be fresh, high-quality products produced following minimum food safety standards. It is not meant to be food rescue quality or seconds.

If I’m applying as a lead agency, do the growers/producers I want to work with have to be in my region?

No. Lead agencies can partner with growers and producers from anywhere in Illinois, as long as they meet at least one of the socially disadvantaged qualifiers. However, you are encouraged to prioritize working with the growers and producers in your community.

Do I need liability insurance?

Some lead agencies may have umbrella coverage for the products they distribute. This is on a case-by-case basis and is not guaranteed. We encourage each grower and producer to purchase liability insurance that fits their needs.

Other Funding Opportunities

Resilient Food Systems Infrastructure Program (RFSI)

For expanding the capacity of the Illinois food system to aggregate, process, store, and distribute local foods. Infrastructure award range: $100,000 - $3 million; Equipment Only award range: $10,000 - $100,000. Applications are due March 15, 2024, at 11:59 PM. Learn more at: https://agr.illinois.gov/assistance/illinoisfarmprograms/resilient-food-systems-infrastructure-program.html

Farm to Food Bank

For Illinois food banks to buy excess products from local farmers. Strong interest in proteins and emphasis on sourcing from socially disadvantaged growers/ producers. Ongoing enrollment. Learn more: https://www.feedingillinois.org/farmers/

Chicago Region Food System Fund (CRFSF)

For building food system resilience up to 200 miles from Chicago. Round 3 funding goals: Move from charity to community solidarity, boost BIPOC leadership, and help the emergency food system respond to climate change. Maximum award: $150,000. Application opens Feb. 2024. Learn more: https://www.chicagoregionfoodfund.org/

Local Food for Schools (LFS)

For Illinois schools to buy local foods from growers and producers for their national school meal programs. Schools are eligible for a minimum of $3,500. Open enrollment until Feb. 29.  Learn more: https://www.isbe.net/Pages/School-Nutrition-Farm-to-School.aspx

Spark Awards

For Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Indiana schools to improve school food systems with capacity building, planning, and product testing projects. Award range: $10,000-$75,000. Apply by April 30. Learn more: https://innovateschoolfood.org/grants/

Innovation Collaborative Awards

For Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Indiana schools to promote systems-level change of school food system through scaling up programs, regional partnerships, or new program/product development. Award: $250,000. Apply by April 30. Learn more: https://innovateschoolfood.org/grants