OVERVIEW: Kendall is a regional foundation based in Boston that isn't quite what you'd call a climate funder, as its sole focus is sustainable food systems. But its focus on food is driven by goals of improving health, coupled with sustainability and reducing greenhouse gas produced in agriculture.
IP TAKE: This funder is laser focused on food, both region-wide and homing in on specific parts of New England. Kendall asks organizations not to contact them, so future grantees will have to do some networking to get on their radar.
PROFILE: The Henry P. Kendall Foundation is a family foundation in the memory of the Massachusetts industrialist and philanthropist, known for his success with textile and other manufacturing companies. Kendall’s sons founded the philanthropy in 1957, and named it after their father upon his passing in 1959.
Kendall has been roughly focused on the environment since the 1970s, but has shifted its goals a handful of times to address pressing issues of the day. For example, while the foundation was more concerned with land, water and wildlife in the '70s, it shifted in the '80s to work on nuclear nonproliferation and arms control. In 1999, it moved into climate change, launching the nonprofit Clean Air-Cool Planet and then expanding to support several programs working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the Northeast.
Then in 2009, it began prepping for another overhaul. The result was the New England Food System Program. Somewhere between a public health program and a climate change program (and a bit of conservation, actually) Kendall’s current focus is an increasingly common one—creating sustainable and resilient systems for how we get healthy, fresh food.
Kendall, for example, cites high obesity, poor health and even low productivity as symptoms of broken food systems. But it also calls out industrial agriculture as our second-highest source of greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, the effects of climate change that we are already experiencing are adding further stress to an already inadequate system, requiring greater resilience.
The funder’s long-term goal, at least at a local level, is to reach the point that the majority of the food consumed in New England is produced there, by the year 2060.
Giving happens through a couple of strategies. For one, Kendall gives to build a regional food system coordinated across six states. But it also backs local case studies in few key areas—Greater Boston, Rhode Island, and the corridor from Greenfield, Massachusetts to new Haven, Connecticut, though this may be expanded in the future. Since the program overhaul, Kendall has settled in to giving around $3 million to $3.5 million annually.
As far as grantees under the new program go, it’s a mix of government agencies, nonprofits both regional and hyperlocal, and area universities and schools.
One of the biggest projects the Kendall food program has backed is the Boston Public Market Association. This nonprofit has been working to create the largest locally sourced market in the United States. The project aims to revive the trade of locally produced foods that once thrived in the city’s market district, but has fallen by the wayside. The funder gave $777,000 to the project in 2013 to help secure matching funds from the state, and another $233,000 the year before.
One example of a regular regional funder is the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group for its work as a facilitator and educator to create a more sustainable, secure and just food system. Kendall has also backed Food Solutions New England, an initiative of the University of New Hampshire’s Sustainability Institute.
Another cool 2013 grantee was the New Entry Sustainable Farming Project, which seeks to improve local food systems by training the next generation of sustainable farmers. A $100,000 grant in 2013 supported an upgrade of farm equipment and web services to meet growing demand in Boston.
Kendall also offers support to schools and local governments to encourage a greater participation in local food systems. And UMass Amherst received a $485,000 grant in January to improve how its food system is sourced.
As far as approaching Kendall, while the foundation is quite transparent, with extensive information online about its intentions and past giving, it discourages organizations from approaching them to seek funding. That means any connecting with this funder will require some pavement pounding to develop ties and draw board member and program staff attention.