Institutions

Because they spend or invest many thousands of times more than most of us, institutions like schools, hospitals and foundations have an outsized impact on both the problems we face and potential solutions. An important range of actions involves convincing institutions to shift their practices in ways that support local economies, communities, and the environment. Those efforts can be led by individuals, community groups, or people working within the institutions themselves.

Encourage foundations to shift their capital.
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Encourage foundations to shift their capital.

In the US alone, foundations hold hundreds of billions of dollars in assets. Standard asset portfolios often include fossil fuel companies, the private prison industry, land stolen by force, and other exploitative corporate activity. Those of us who have a relationship with a foundation – as a board member, staff member, or even a donor – have a voice in shifting these investments towards strengthening local economies and communities.

Get started

  • Encourage a foundation to adopt mission-aligned investing principles and move its money towards local businesses with Common Future's Funder Learning program.
  • Write a responsible investing policy that excludes exploitative corporations and favors local community development. This guide from PRI takes you through the steps, and provides links to sample policies in dozens of countries, including South Africa, Brazil, New Zealand, the US and many European countries.

Get inspired

  • The Heron Foundation in the US has shifted 100% of its assets in line with its mission to reduce domestic poverty, through the Funder Learning program. Read details of their journey in the link above.

Encourage foundations to shift their capital.

In the US alone, foundations hold hundreds of billions of dollars in assets. Standard asset portfolios often include fossil fuel companies, the private prison industry, land stolen by force, and other exploitative corporate activity. Those of us who have a relationship with a foundation – as a board member, staff member, or even a donor – have a voice in shifting these investments towards strengthening local economies and communities.

Get started

  • Encourage a foundation to adopt mission-aligned investing principles and move its money towards local businesses with Common Future's Funder Learning program.
  • Write a responsible investing policy that excludes exploitative corporations and favors local community development. This guide from PRI takes you through the steps, and provides links to sample policies in dozens of countries, including South Africa, Brazil, New Zealand, the US and many European countries.

Get inspired

  • The Heron Foundation in the US has shifted 100% of its assets in line with its mission to reduce domestic poverty, through the Funder Learning program. Read details of their journey in the link above.
Introduce seed saving into schools.
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Introduce seed saving into schools.

Educating the next generation on seed saving preserves valuable, intergenerational knowledge that's at risk of being lost and empowers them to become custodians of nature in its most delicate form. It will also connect children to nature at an early age and encourage them to participate in nature's cycles, from seed to plant, from plant to seed.

Take action

Get inspired

  • At the Sahyadri School in Pune, India, students and farmers work together to cultivate and market indigenous varieties of seeds, producing eight tons of heritage seeds per year while learning agricultural and business skills in the process.

Introduce seed saving into schools.

Educating the next generation on seed saving preserves valuable, intergenerational knowledge that's at risk of being lost and empowers them to become custodians of nature in its most delicate form. It will also connect children to nature at an early age and encourage them to participate in nature's cycles, from seed to plant, from plant to seed.

Take action

Get inspired

  • At the Sahyadri School in Pune, India, students and farmers work together to cultivate and market indigenous varieties of seeds, producing eight tons of heritage seeds per year while learning agricultural and business skills in the process.
Initiate a food recovery program.
Expand Action
Initiate a food recovery program.

Food recovery programs aim to tackle the outrageous levels of institutional food waste today by collecting and diverting good food from being dumped, and safely redistributing it to those in need.

Take action

Get inspired

  • The US-based Food Recovery Network started with a student who wanted to do something about cafeteria waste at his school – and is now a national nonprofit with chapters on 172 campuses in 46 states. It has recovered nearly 5 million pounds of food.
  • Transfernation in New York City brings excess, untouched food from corporate cafeterias and events to soup kitchens, churches and homeless shelters.
  • The waste in the food system even provides opportunities for small businesses. Deals & Steals in the city of Northampton, US, sells food and clothes from nearby stores that would otherwise be dumped due to a lack of shelf space, thereby offering high-quality food at affordable prices.

Initiate a food recovery program.

Food recovery programs aim to tackle the outrageous levels of institutional food waste today by collecting and diverting good food from being dumped, and safely redistributing it to those in need.

Take action

Get inspired

  • The US-based Food Recovery Network started with a student who wanted to do something about cafeteria waste at his school – and is now a national nonprofit with chapters on 172 campuses in 46 states. It has recovered nearly 5 million pounds of food.
  • Transfernation in New York City brings excess, untouched food from corporate cafeterias and events to soup kitchens, churches and homeless shelters.
  • The waste in the food system even provides opportunities for small businesses. Deals & Steals in the city of Northampton, US, sells food and clothes from nearby stores that would otherwise be dumped due to a lack of shelf space, thereby offering high-quality food at affordable prices.
Create a space for community events.
Expand Action
Create a space for community events.

Vibrant communities are often home to live theater and music, film screenings, art shows, lectures, public discussions and celebrations. At the same time, community groups and civic organizations also need space for meetings and events. If there is no local venue where these can happen – or if the only venues available are prohibitively expensive – community vitality will suffer. Creating such public spaces is therefore an important part of community-building.

Take action

  • If you are part of an organization that has empty rooms or gathering places available, offer them to the public for community events.
  • In many cities and towns there are buildings – churches, train stations, warehouses, mills, etc. – that are no longer needed for their original purpose. Join with others in the community to approach your local government about creating public spaces from those buildings.
  • Learn more about how to create pubic spaces from the Project for Public Spaces training, Placemaking: Making it Happen. The course provides an introduction to placemaking principles for interested members of the public as well as representatives of local government

Get inspired

  • The community NGO Building a Local Economy (BALE) transformed an empty storefront in South Royalton, Vermont (US) into The Commons – an event space that is free and open to the public. The space is regularly used for classes, music jams, receptions, film screenings, art exhibitions and more.
  • The Belgian city of Ghent purchased a beautiful but deconsecrated church in a low-income neighborhood and turned it into a public resource. Part of the plan is to give citizens access to the building for their own projects up to 12 times a year. Read about it in this article from URBACT, a program of the European Union.

Create a space for community events.

Vibrant communities are often home to live theater and music, film screenings, art shows, lectures, public discussions and celebrations. At the same time, community groups and civic organizations also need space for meetings and events. If there is no local venue where these can happen – or if the only venues available are prohibitively expensive – community vitality will suffer. Creating such public spaces is therefore an important part of community-building.

Take action

  • If you are part of an organization that has empty rooms or gathering places available, offer them to the public for community events.
  • In many cities and towns there are buildings – churches, train stations, warehouses, mills, etc. – that are no longer needed for their original purpose. Join with others in the community to approach your local government about creating public spaces from those buildings.
  • Learn more about how to create pubic spaces from the Project for Public Spaces training, Placemaking: Making it Happen. The course provides an introduction to placemaking principles for interested members of the public as well as representatives of local government

Get inspired

  • The community NGO Building a Local Economy (BALE) transformed an empty storefront in South Royalton, Vermont (US) into The Commons – an event space that is free and open to the public. The space is regularly used for classes, music jams, receptions, film screenings, art exhibitions and more.
  • The Belgian city of Ghent purchased a beautiful but deconsecrated church in a low-income neighborhood and turned it into a public resource. Part of the plan is to give citizens access to the building for their own projects up to 12 times a year. Read about it in this article from URBACT, a program of the European Union.
Create a resilience hub.
Expand Action
Create a resilience hub.

In normal times, a Resilience Hub is a place where community residents, businesses, and organizations can gather for workshops, events, meals, classes and other community needs. But it is also a place where a community can plan for, respond to, and recover from both 'natural' and man-made disasters without depending entirely on centralized government efforts.

Take Action

  • The Resilience We Want: A guide to making your community space into a hub for local resilience and mutual aid, by Shareable, offers a workbook for forming a working group to turn a community space into a hub for sustainable, inclusive disaster preparedness and response.  
  • The guide is a companion to The Response, Shareable’s documentary film, book, and podcast with worldwide case studies of building collective resilience in post-disaster situations. 
  • The Guide to Developing Resilience Hubs, from resilience-hubs.org, offers comprehensive instructions for creating community centers that can help meet neighborhood residents’ basic needs during and after disasters. Based in the US, but applicable worldwide. 
  • As with other localization initiatives, the success of any resilience hub project will depend on the strength of trust and relationships in your community – so building connection is the most important first step. 
     

    Get inspired

  • Japan’s disaster parks are an example of building community resilience hubs into public infrastructure. This NextCity article describes them.   
  • The Commons at Building a Local Economy (BALE), normally a public space open for event hosting, is functioning as a resilience hub during the coronavirus pandemic.

Create a resilience hub.

In normal times, a Resilience Hub is a place where community residents, businesses, and organizations can gather for workshops, events, meals, classes and other community needs. But it is also a place where a community can plan for, respond to, and recover from both 'natural' and man-made disasters without depending entirely on centralized government efforts.

Take Action

  • The Resilience We Want: A guide to making your community space into a hub for local resilience and mutual aid, by Shareable, offers a workbook for forming a working group to turn a community space into a hub for sustainable, inclusive disaster preparedness and response.  
  • The guide is a companion to The Response, Shareable’s documentary film, book, and podcast with worldwide case studies of building collective resilience in post-disaster situations. 
  • The Guide to Developing Resilience Hubs, from resilience-hubs.org, offers comprehensive instructions for creating community centers that can help meet neighborhood residents’ basic needs during and after disasters. Based in the US, but applicable worldwide. 
  • As with other localization initiatives, the success of any resilience hub project will depend on the strength of trust and relationships in your community – so building connection is the most important first step. 
     

    Get inspired

  • Japan’s disaster parks are an example of building community resilience hubs into public infrastructure. This NextCity article describes them.   
  • The Commons at Building a Local Economy (BALE), normally a public space open for event hosting, is functioning as a resilience hub during the coronavirus pandemic.
Create a campus sustainability map.
Expand Action
Create a campus sustainability map.

Take action

Create a campus sustainability map.

Take action

Oppose land grabbing.
Expand Action
Oppose land grabbing.

For centuries, conquest, colonialism and even development have undermined self-reliant economies and extracted their resources for use not by local communities, but for the murky supply chains of the global economic system. Today, that is happening in much of the world through the process of land grabbing. Land grabbing refers to land acquisitions, mostly in the global South, by corporations, pension funds, governments, and wealthy individuals. The acquired land is used for food and biofuels production for export, or simply for speculation. Land grabbing removes peasant and indigenous communities from their sources of sustenance, in turn generating poverty, hunger and environmental destruction.  In fact, research reveals that as many as 550 million people in Asia, Africa, and Oceania could be fed from land that has been taken over in land grabs. Further, Oxfam reports that "more than 60 percent of crops grown on land bought by foreign investors in developing countries are intended for export, instead of for feeding local communities."

Take action

Oppose land grabbing.

For centuries, conquest, colonialism and even development have undermined self-reliant economies and extracted their resources for use not by local communities, but for the murky supply chains of the global economic system. Today, that is happening in much of the world through the process of land grabbing. Land grabbing refers to land acquisitions, mostly in the global South, by corporations, pension funds, governments, and wealthy individuals. The acquired land is used for food and biofuels production for export, or simply for speculation. Land grabbing removes peasant and indigenous communities from their sources of sustenance, in turn generating poverty, hunger and environmental destruction.  In fact, research reveals that as many as 550 million people in Asia, Africa, and Oceania could be fed from land that has been taken over in land grabs. Further, Oxfam reports that "more than 60 percent of crops grown on land bought by foreign investors in developing countries are intended for export, instead of for feeding local communities."

Take action

Start a farm-to-school initiative.
Expand Action
Start a farm-to-school initiative.

Farm-to-school, also called local food-to-school (to acknowledge important non-farm, traditional food sources) is a movement focusing on directing the enormous food purchasing power of schools and universities to support local, small-scale, organic farmers and other food producers, which in turn improves children's health and nutrition, benefits the environment, and imparts a vital, holistic education about and connection to food.

Take action

(US)

  • Shift procurement policies in private and public schools with Vermont FEED's Local Food Procurement Toolkit and Farm to School Planning Toolkit, featuring information, paperwork templates, and forms specific to schools. 
  • Make use of Getting Started With Farm to School, by the National Farm to School Network, providing "simple first steps [that] will help you develop a lasting farm to school initiative in your community."
  • Change your university's procurement policies and demand healthy, local, sustainable food with the Real Food Challenge's guides and tools, found on their Resources page.
  • Create a student group to mobilize against industrial food in universities with Uprooted and Rising's Take Action page.
  • Use farm-to-school programs to educate about the broader food system with the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy's Farm to School Youth Leadership Curriculum, "designed to empower youth, teach them about their local food system, engage them in meaningful, hands-on learning activities that also strengthen their school’s Farm to School program and link them directly with farmers in their community."
  • Check out the Farm to School policies and policy advocacy tools, and the State Farm to School Policy Handbook for those working to advance the farm to school movement through supportive policies, from the National Farm to School Network.
  • Find resources "to implement, sustain, and maintain your farm to school program" from the US Office of Community Food Systems.
  • For Native American communities, see the Native Farm-to-School Resource Guide, from the First Nations Development Institute.

(Canada)

Get inspired

  • The Mouans-Sartoux’s Municipal Farm-to-School Program in France involved a town council purchase of an old farm estate that was slated for development and designation of over 100 hectares of land in the area as protected farmland. The municipality also set a goal that 100% of the food served to children in the region’s public schools should be local and organic, and updated their procurement policies to make it easier for small producers in the area to meet school catering needs.
  • In Five Things We Can Learn from Brazil’s School Meal Program, Colleen Kimmett reports on how Brazil spends over $1 billion per year on its national school food program, which stipulates that at least 30 percent of food purchased for the program must come from small family farmers, providing "an incentive for farmers to organize in co-operatives so they can meet schools’ demands for large quantities of high quality produce."
  • The Brazil school food program has informed the Purchase from Africans for Africa program, as well as the Sustainable Schools program in Latin America and the Caribbean, linking smallholder agriculture with school feeding through local procurement for hundreds of schools in numerous African countries.
  • The farm-to-school movement in Canada is connecting students to healthy, local foods in hundreds of schools across the country, and supporting local food producers with some $16 million in annual spending, according to the Benefits of Farm to School report from Farm to Cafeteria Canada. In Quebéc, under the government's bio-food program, participating schools sourced up to 87% of salad bar ingredients from local producers, as shown in Salad Bars Bring Local Food to School: Recognizing Local Procurement in 9 Quebéc Schools.
  • Farm to school programs benefit local economies and farmers, public health and nutrition, and the environment. Read more in The Benefits of Farm to School from the National Farm to School Network in the US.
  • In 2021, $5 million of federal funding was secured to establish the National Farm-to-School Institute at Shelburne Farms in Vermont, US.
  • In The Next Chapter for Farm to School: Milling Whole Grains in the Cafeteria, Hannah Wallace reports that "Oregon’s legislature has been funding farm-to-school projects since 2007, when it budgeted for a permanent, full-time farm-to-school manager position. In July [2021], the legislature re-upped the Oregon Farm-to-School Grant Program, setting aside $10.2 million in funding for schools to purchase and serve Oregon-grown foods."

Start a farm-to-school initiative.

Farm-to-school, also called local food-to-school (to acknowledge important non-farm, traditional food sources) is a movement focusing on directing the enormous food purchasing power of schools and universities to support local, small-scale, organic farmers and other food producers, which in turn improves children's health and nutrition, benefits the environment, and imparts a vital, holistic education about and connection to food.

Take action

(US)

  • Shift procurement policies in private and public schools with Vermont FEED's Local Food Procurement Toolkit and Farm to School Planning Toolkit, featuring information, paperwork templates, and forms specific to schools. 
  • Make use of Getting Started With Farm to School, by the National Farm to School Network, providing "simple first steps [that] will help you develop a lasting farm to school initiative in your community."
  • Change your university's procurement policies and demand healthy, local, sustainable food with the Real Food Challenge's guides and tools, found on their Resources page.
  • Create a student group to mobilize against industrial food in universities with Uprooted and Rising's Take Action page.
  • Use farm-to-school programs to educate about the broader food system with the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy's Farm to School Youth Leadership Curriculum, "designed to empower youth, teach them about their local food system, engage them in meaningful, hands-on learning activities that also strengthen their school’s Farm to School program and link them directly with farmers in their community."
  • Check out the Farm to School policies and policy advocacy tools, and the State Farm to School Policy Handbook for those working to advance the farm to school movement through supportive policies, from the National Farm to School Network.
  • Find resources "to implement, sustain, and maintain your farm to school program" from the US Office of Community Food Systems.
  • For Native American communities, see the Native Farm-to-School Resource Guide, from the First Nations Development Institute.

(Canada)

Get inspired

  • The Mouans-Sartoux’s Municipal Farm-to-School Program in France involved a town council purchase of an old farm estate that was slated for development and designation of over 100 hectares of land in the area as protected farmland. The municipality also set a goal that 100% of the food served to children in the region’s public schools should be local and organic, and updated their procurement policies to make it easier for small producers in the area to meet school catering needs.
  • In Five Things We Can Learn from Brazil’s School Meal Program, Colleen Kimmett reports on how Brazil spends over $1 billion per year on its national school food program, which stipulates that at least 30 percent of food purchased for the program must come from small family farmers, providing "an incentive for farmers to organize in co-operatives so they can meet schools’ demands for large quantities of high quality produce."
  • The Brazil school food program has informed the Purchase from Africans for Africa program, as well as the Sustainable Schools program in Latin America and the Caribbean, linking smallholder agriculture with school feeding through local procurement for hundreds of schools in numerous African countries.
  • The farm-to-school movement in Canada is connecting students to healthy, local foods in hundreds of schools across the country, and supporting local food producers with some $16 million in annual spending, according to the Benefits of Farm to School report from Farm to Cafeteria Canada. In Quebéc, under the government's bio-food program, participating schools sourced up to 87% of salad bar ingredients from local producers, as shown in Salad Bars Bring Local Food to School: Recognizing Local Procurement in 9 Quebéc Schools.
  • Farm to school programs benefit local economies and farmers, public health and nutrition, and the environment. Read more in The Benefits of Farm to School from the National Farm to School Network in the US.
  • In 2021, $5 million of federal funding was secured to establish the National Farm-to-School Institute at Shelburne Farms in Vermont, US.
  • In The Next Chapter for Farm to School: Milling Whole Grains in the Cafeteria, Hannah Wallace reports that "Oregon’s legislature has been funding farm-to-school projects since 2007, when it budgeted for a permanent, full-time farm-to-school manager position. In July [2021], the legislature re-upped the Oregon Farm-to-School Grant Program, setting aside $10.2 million in funding for schools to purchase and serve Oregon-grown foods."
Start a school garden.
Expand Action
Start a school garden.

School gardens help get children outside and physically active, provide crucial education about the reality of food origins and fundamentals of ecology, and can help foster a life-long commitment to local, sustainable agriculture and food systems.

Take action

Get inspired

  • With the support of Slow Food International and the Rojava Ministry of Water and Agriculture, the Mesopotamian Ecology Movement helped build a series of school gardens in villages around the city of Kobane, Syria, in order to provide a ‘laboratory’ for children to learn about the region’s biodiversity and how to care for it. Read more in Agriculture and Autonomy in the Middle East on Local Futures' blog.
  • In Timor Leste, Permatil promotes regenerative agriculture through many avenues, including a national farmers’ network and the inclusion of place-based agricultural education and school gardens into the national school curriculum. Learn more about Permatil in Local Futures' library of alternatives, Planet Local.
  • In Schools turn nutrition gardens in Mizoram district, Rahul Karmakar writes about the My School, My Farm program in the Indian state of Mizoram which is aiming to create "nutrition gardens" in every school in the district in order to both impart environmental education and tackle food insecurity and malnutrition.
  • Seeds of Solidarity, a nonprofit organization in Massachusetts, US, has partnered with six schools in a poor and working-class area to address problems of obesity and food insecurity by helping to put fresh, local food on the menu and educate teachers and students about nutrition and food policy. Read more in Sowing Seeds of Solidarity by Leah Penniman in Rethinking Schools.

Start a school garden.

School gardens help get children outside and physically active, provide crucial education about the reality of food origins and fundamentals of ecology, and can help foster a life-long commitment to local, sustainable agriculture and food systems.

Take action

Get inspired

  • With the support of Slow Food International and the Rojava Ministry of Water and Agriculture, the Mesopotamian Ecology Movement helped build a series of school gardens in villages around the city of Kobane, Syria, in order to provide a ‘laboratory’ for children to learn about the region’s biodiversity and how to care for it. Read more in Agriculture and Autonomy in the Middle East on Local Futures' blog.
  • In Timor Leste, Permatil promotes regenerative agriculture through many avenues, including a national farmers’ network and the inclusion of place-based agricultural education and school gardens into the national school curriculum. Learn more about Permatil in Local Futures' library of alternatives, Planet Local.
  • In Schools turn nutrition gardens in Mizoram district, Rahul Karmakar writes about the My School, My Farm program in the Indian state of Mizoram which is aiming to create "nutrition gardens" in every school in the district in order to both impart environmental education and tackle food insecurity and malnutrition.
  • Seeds of Solidarity, a nonprofit organization in Massachusetts, US, has partnered with six schools in a poor and working-class area to address problems of obesity and food insecurity by helping to put fresh, local food on the menu and educate teachers and students about nutrition and food policy. Read more in Sowing Seeds of Solidarity by Leah Penniman in Rethinking Schools.