Beginning in fall 2023, SOFSA and our partners will begin a community-driven participatory grantmaking process to support small-scale food justice projects across the city of Syracuse, Onondaga County, and Onondaga Nation.

What is Participatory Grantmaking?

Participatory grantmaking is a powerful tool for advancing food systems change and promoting equity in decision-making. Historically, the food system has displaced, enslaved, and undervalued the labor, land rights, and self-determination of Black and Brown individuals, women, immigrants, and Indigenous people. Low-income communities and communities of color still have fewer fresh food choices. Building on successful models from across the country, the participatory grantmaking project will support community-driven solutions in areas where access to healthier food is needed the most.

By involving community members – particularly those who have been historically marginalized or excluded – in the grantmaking process, participatory grantmaking ensures that the needs and priorities of these communities are heard and acted upon. This approach can help to address systemic inequalities and power imbalances within the food system, leading to more just and sustainable outcomes. While the exact projects to be funded will be determined through the participatory grantmaking process, we anticipate that grantee projects will be unique and creative community endeavors that will increase equitable access to healthy, affordable, and culturally relevant foods.

How will it work?

SOFSA’s participatory grantmaking initiative will unfold over the course of the next 10 months, with community input – from our ongoing Community Listening Sessions as well as from a team of Community Advisors who will lead this process – influencing each step of the process.

How can I get involved?

Community Advisors will be paid a stipend for their service supporting the roll-out of the participatory grantmaking process, determine funding eligibility criteria, and support engagement activities. More information on the Community Advisor role and application process will be shared at the upcoming SOFSA Food Justice Symposium on Saturday, October 28th, 2023.

You can lend your support to this effort by making a contribution at or reaching out to Maura Ackerman at

How does this effort align with SOFSA’s mission?

A core component of SOFSA’s mission is to align resources (not only monetary, but human, capital, equipment, land, etc.) across the network to maximize our collective impact. As part of this effort, the organization’s Fund Development Committee adopted principles of Community-Centric Fundraising in 2021 as part of SOFSA’s Equity and Justice Action Plan. In addition, the committee made a commitment to dedicate a minimum of 15% of funds from any grant or donation over $50k to support under-resourced partners across the network – and to encourage our well-resourced partners to undertake similar goals in their own fundraising practices. This commitment – and all of SOFSA’s work – is informed by health justice, the collective movement to heal society and remove barriers that prevent individual and community well-being.