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Community Food System Grants Program Request for Proposals

  1. Information Sessions
  2. Funding Guidelines

Information Session

United Way staff will be offering two public information sessions on June 3 and 11, 2019 for organizations interested in learning more about this funding opportunity. Register for an information session here. It is highly recommended that you attend one information session.

Funding Guidelines


Through a partnership with General Mills Foundation and Greater Twin Cities United Way (GTCUW), United Way Greater Toronto (United Way) seeks to strengthen the food system in the City of Mississauga. Based on learnings from community food system grants programs led by United Ways in Minneapolis and Buffalo, a literature review and stakeholder engagement, United Way is deepening its current $1.2 million annual investment in food security initiatives across the Greater Toronto Area by piloting a new grant stream focused specifically on enhancing the local food system of Mississauga.

The City of Mississauga is the largest municipality in Peel Region and the sixth largest in Canada with a diverse and vibrant population of 721,599 residents.1 Named after the Algonquian Mississaugas, the City is home to 381,730 immigrants who comprise 53.4% of the total population with India, Pakistan and the Philippines as the three main countries of origin.2 Known for Canada’s busiest airport, the world’s longest serving mayor, and being headquarters to many Canadian and multinational corporations, Mississauga has a thriving economy and a rich cultural life. Amid these successes, a growing number of residents are going to a local food bank to gain access to food. The Mississauga Food Bank reports an 18% increase in the number of residents accessing their network of food banks and meal programs in 2018.3 The individuals and families using these hunger relief services experience low income and often face added challenges such as accessing affordable housing and childcare.4 At the regional level, research demonstrates low income residents have greater exposure to unhealthy food sources as compared to those with affluence.5 According to Peel Public Health, this exposure may lead to health conditions such as diabetes and obesity, and to address, require intervention at multiple levels e.g., municipal and regional.6

Given the noted challenges, United Way is seeking applications for a one-time, two-year funding opportunity to support innovative, community-driven initiatives that increase access of low income populations in Mississauga to food options that meet their nutritious, cultural and economic needs with a focus on accessibility, equity and sustainability. They will also reflect a cohort approach where United Way will fund, convene and provide capacity building supports to grantees in a way that catalyzes strategic development of Mississauga’s food system. Projects that aim to strengthen food-related policy, research or public education across Peel Region will also be considered for funding.


Several key concepts drive the approach of the Community Food System Grants Program:

What is a place-based approach? The federal government organization, Policy Horizons Canada, defines place-based approaches as “stakeholders engaging in a collaborative process to address issues as they are experienced in a geographic space.”7

What is systems change? This work is designed to alter the status quo of a specific system by changing its form and function. At United Way Greater Toronto, the goal of systems change is to build better connection between different social service organizations and other actors, which ultimately leads to better outcomes for individuals. It’s about how the system of supports work for the people who need them. Systems change work may involve changes to when and how organizations provide services. More complex systems change work may involve setting shared goals and planning services to meet those goals, or establishing better client data tracking across an entire system of social services.

What is food security? In the Peel Food Charter8 food security is defined as existing when “all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.”9

In their 2017 public policy statement, the Dietitians of Canada note that food security initiatives have traditionally focused on alleviating hunger among low income populations through short-term relief strategies such as food banks or soup kitchens.10 While hunger relief initiatives are an integral part of a community’s food system, the Community Food System Grants Program seeks to support resident-engaged, cross-sectoral and long-term approaches to addressing food security that fundamentally strengthen Mississauga’s food infrastructure.


To support Mississauga’s food system, United Way will fund community-based organizations that work with residents and cross-sectoral stakeholders to increase food access of low income populations. The grants will:

  • Increase access to fresh and other food options that meet the nutritional, cultural and economic needs of low income residents in Mississauga through innovative community-based food programs.
  • Enable grantees to work in a collaborative way with resident, organizational and other key stakeholders across Mississauga’s food system.
  • Promote organizational capacity to incorporate a food system lens into their work.
  • Strengthen a food policy, research and/or public education framework that leverages municipal and regional practices.

Funding will not extend beyond the grant term so ideal initiatives must build sustainability within the two-year period.


The Community Food System Grants Program will run for two years, from October 2019 to September 2021, with a primary focus on Mississauga. The total funding envelope is $900,000 and United Way expects to award five to ten grants altogether. Single organizations or collaborations with a lead agency may apply.

  1. Service Delivery grants: United Way will allocate up to seven grants aimed at increasing access to fresh and other food options that meet the nutritional, cultural and economic needs of low income residents through innovative, community-driven solutions. The geographic focus of these grants is the City of Mississauga and awarded amounts will range from $50,000 to $100,000 annually. New and changes to/expansion of existing initiatives will be considered, and United Way will select a range of initiatives that represent different aspects of Mississauga’s food system. Grants may be used to:
    • create innovation, changes to, or expansion of, existing programs or services;
    • enable a delivery organization to build capacity;
    • initiate new or innovative partnerships;
    • start new or innovative programs that might influence the food system in Mississauga.

    Examples of service delivery initiatives include mobile food markets and healthy convenience store initiatives that engage residents and leverage cross-sectoral partnerships. Costs related to small capital expenditures including program equipment/vehicles and renovation of program delivery spaces are eligible but will not be selected if these expenditures are not aligned to the broader vision of the grant stream.

  2. Policy, Research or Public Education grants: United Way will allocate one to three grants to lay the foundation for strong food policy, research and/or public education framework that build on existing municipal or regional practices. The focus of these grants can go beyond Mississauga to include Peel Region. Grants will range from $50,000 to $100,000 annually and new and changes to/expansion of existing initiatives will be considered. Some examples of policy, research or public education initiatives are community food security assessment11, public awareness/marketing campaigns to increase awareness about food access, community-led research projects regarding the food access needs of a sub-population within low income groups, local advocacy for policies and systems changes to support food security.


Community service organizations with expertise engaging local constituents, working in community development and/or willing to collaborate across the local food system are welcome to apply. Most organizations selected will have a presence in Mississauga or a demonstrated partnership with a local organization.

This grant is open to agencies currently funded by United Way as well as others that meet the eligibility criteria. Current funding by United Way is not a requirement for funding.

United Way will select a range of programs with consideration of the following criteria:

  • demonstration that the program will engage residents as partners and not just service recipients;
  • clear evidence that the program leverages partnerships that reflect different aspects of Mississauga’s food system;
  • ability of the initiative to fit into Mississauga’s food system and evidence that the organization(s) can, and will, partner with other organizations in the system (all collaborative applications will need letters or indication of partnership);
  • strong program design that includes: clear goals and objectives, clear description of intended target community; project activities and plan that aligns with goals and objectives;
  • a clear and realistic budget and plan for wind-down, integration into other work or sustainability beyond the period of the grant;
  • organizational capacity to steward United Way funds and deliver on the intended program;
  • ability to report on the activities of the grant within the project evaluation framework;
  • ability to engage with donor and fulfill stewardship expectations that assist United Way to keep General Mills Foundation and GTCUW abreast of the impact of their investments.

Eligible services and activities can include:

  • Staffing costs
  • Programming costs
  • Consultant costs
  • Small capital expenses such as equipment/vehicle purchases or renovation of existing program space
  • Up to 20% administration or overhead

View detailed eligibility criteria and non-eligible costs.


  1. Application

    This is an open call and all eligible organizations are welcome to apply. Interested parties must contact United Way by June 28, 2019 at 5 p.m. to ensure their initiatives align to the vision and eligibility criteria for the grant stream.

    Once alignment and eligibility are confirmed, United Way will provide applicants will a web link to submit the online application. Details on how to access and use the online system will be provided.

    Organizations that are not currently funded by United Way will have to complete a Basic Organizational Requirements Assessment, along with the application, and staff will provide the necessary web link. Organizations currently funded by United Way have already completed this assessment and therefore not required to do so. View the Basic Organizational Requirements Assessment questions.

  2. Application Review Process

    All applications will be reviewed by a committee made up of United Way staff, Peel-based volunteers, and representatives from General Mills Foundation and GTCUW.

    The review committee will shortlist proposals most strongly aligned to the funding guidelines and request a site visit with these organizations to learn more about their initiatives. Site visits are expected to occur during the first two weeks of August 2019 and discussion questions will be shared in advance. United Way staff will connect with selected projects to schedule site visits in late July.

    Successful projects will be notified and publicly announced in the fall of 2019. United Way may negotiate the terms of the allocation and partnership before final decisions are made to ensure that the overall portfolio of grantees is able to work as a system with the funding partners.


  1. Technical Assistance and Capacity Building

    Successful grantees can expect to receive technical assistance and capacity building supports throughout the two-year grant term. Support may be offered through pro bono, skills-based volunteers and/or additional fee for service consultancy, and will be tailored to the specific needs of the initiative e.g., evaluation, volunteer management, fund development.

  2. Peer Learning and Evaluation

    Successful grantees will be required to participate in a peer learning and evaluation process and comply with the evaluation framework for the food systems initiative. On a quarterly or bi-annual basis, United Way will convene grantees for cohort learning delivered by subject matter experts on topics based on the needs of grantees. United Way and the external evaluators, Taylor Newberry Consulting Inc., will work with grantees to determine topics for shared learning as well as jointly develop the evaluation framework and reporting indicators. The evaluators will help grantees to develop their own evaluation plan and support data collection activities. Grantees will be required to provide regular updates and submit a report to United Way every six months to share successes and challenges.

  3. Donor Engagement

    Grantees will also be required to engage with employees of General Mills Foundation and General Mills Canada. Engagement opportunities will be coordinated by United Way and may range from annual site visits to more frequent volunteer opportunities that support the work of funded initiatives.


Applications are due on Monday, July 29, 2019 at 5 p.m. and should be submitted via a web link provided by United Way staff.

Launch of Online Application Friday, June 7, 2019
Information Sessions Information sessions will be held on June 3 and 11, 2019 for organizations interested in learning more about this funding opportunity. Sign-up for an information session.
Launch of Online Application Monday, June 17, 2019
Deadline for Confirmation of Eligibility Friday, June 28, 2019 at 5 p.m.
Phone Support Tuesday, June 4, 2019 to Monday, July 29, 2019 (weekdays from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.)
RFP Technical Support Monday, June 17, 2019 to Monday, July 29, 2019 (weekdays from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.)
RFP Deadline Online proposals are due on Monday, July 29, 2019 at 5 p.m. and should be submitted via an online link provided by United Way staff.
RFP Review Tuesday, July 30, 2019 to Thursday, August 15, 2019
Scheduling of Site Visits Week of August 19, 2019
Site Visits Monday, August 26, 2019 to Friday, September 6, 2019
Notification and Public Announcement of Successful Grantees Fall 2019


For questions related to the grant stream, eligibility and application, contact Keisa Campbell, Community Investment Manager, (416) 777-1444 ext 680, kcampbell@uwgt.org or Ava Joshi, Community Investment Manager, (416) 777-1444 ext 465, ajoshi@uwgt.org between June 4 and July 29, 2019.

Thank you for considering this opportunity.