The Austin Eats initiative was developed to help coordinate existing efforts around strengthening Austin’s food access ecosystem and building a healthier Austin. Here are some highlights throughout the process:


The COVID-19 pandemic caused an increased need for emergency food access. In response, the Greater Chicago Food Depository reached out to community-based organizations like ACT to establish pop-up food distributions in Austin and other communities that were most impacted. ACT was able to enlist hundreds of volunteers to help give out over 750,000 pounds of food to Austin families.

The Austin Fresh Fund was created after funders recognized how the critical importance of addressing food insecurity aligned with Austin Forward. Together. plan actions in the Community Narrative issue area.

ACT was awarded $250,000 through the Austin Fresh Fund to be used over two years. This investment helped build the foundation for the Austin Eats initiative to be created to address the immediate and long-term inequities around the food access ecosystem in Austin.

Support from the Austin Fresh Fund was leveraged to attract additional investments, including a $30,000 grant from Howard Brown Health.

Fresh food markets were established in Austin. The indoor Soul City Community Market and the outdoor Austin Town Hall City Market are both coordinated by Austin Eats partner Forty Acres Fresh Market and give opportunities for Austin residents to shop for quality fresh produce at affordable prices. The Austin Fresh Fund helped expand the Soul City Community Market’s reach, attract new vendors, and boost advertising.

In a space where grocery stores are few and far between, Forty Acres Fresh Market leveraged seed funding from the Austin Fresh Fund to help secure a $2.5 million City of Chicago Neighborhood Opportunity Fund grant for the development of a full-service grocery store located in the Soul City Corridor on Chicago Avenue.

With the support of the Austin Fresh Fund, One Earth Collective has been able to employ its unique “awareness-to-action” model in the form of a food-based educational film series. Since the series launched, hundreds have participated in the programming which includes various interactive elements such as cooking demos, post-film discussions, garden tours, and more!

“The opportunity to continue extending our mission and model in a hyper-local, grassroots way is at the heart of how we envision our work as “living” projects rather than just the sharing of information and ideas.”  – Ana Garcia Doyle, Executive Director of One Earth Collective and one of Crain Chicago Business 2022 Notable Leaders in Sustainability

The Mildred Wiley Wellness Hub was made possible through the initial Austin Eats investment and will open on Bethel New Life’s nine-acre campus. The Hub will house a horticulture center with a garden and kitchen. Uses for the rest of the Hub building are yet to be determined, but Bethel New Life president Sharif Walker assures that the community will have a say in those decisions. 


$18,750 from the Clara Lionel Foundation by way of West Side United and Live Healthy Chicago allowed Jehovah Jireh #1 Outreach Ministry and Hope Community Church Food Pantry to purchase a second van for food delivery, and advance their emergency food access program towards creating a brick-and-mortar base in 2022.

To learn more about the initiative, see the list of partners, get local food resources, or view a food-related event calendar, visit