Report shows hyper-local investment essential for community survival through crisis

A new report from The Kresge Foundation’s Fresh, Local and Equitable (FreshLo) Initiative affirms the importance of place-based, hyper-local investment in ensuring communities historically left out of power are able to weather crises like COVID-19 and are well-resourced for the long haul.

The FreshLo Initiative seeks to improve access to healthy food, ignite entrepreneurship, spur economic development and integrate arts, culture and community-engaged design to spark neighborhood revitalization in cities around the country. This work has become all the more important amid COVID-19.

While the federal government has fallen short, neighborhood cultural institutions have been cornerstones of the pandemic response. The report finds that groups working at the intersection of food, art, and culture have the local connections, cultural context and resources to best meet community needs in moments of crisis.

“Neighborhoods are facing unprecedented strain in this crisis, and it is essential that they have the infrastructure, ties, and supported leadership to meet their needs,” Stacey Barbas, a senior program officer on Kresge’s Health Team, said. “Hyper-local investments in community institutions are the best safety net philanthropy can provide. In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, these neighborhood groups are on the front lines saving lives. They deserve every resource we can offer.”

Kresge’s FreshLo Initiative has been supporting innovative, community-driven work for five years, but this report marks the release of the first independent evaluation of this funding's impact on organizations and neighborhoods. It includes qualitative stories of how these hyper-local groups have adapted to meet their communities needs in a moment of crisis. 

Key findings include:

  1. Hyper-local investments are critical to ensure those historically left out of power have the infrastructure, networks and resources to weather crises. 
  2. Investments need to be strategic, and to be successful should: a) center residents in leadership, planning, and implementation; b) be for the long haul; and c) strengthen the cultural fabric of neighborhoods -- especially through art and food.

To read the full report, click here.

Since its launch in 2015, FreshLo has provided $8.4 million in grant funding, as well as technical assistance and learning opportunities, to 23 organizations from around the country.

The FreshLo model outlines a new path forward for philanthropy that supports community development without driving displacement and ensures people in historically under-resourced and marginalized neighborhoods have the support needed to innovate and lift up their neighbors.