What is the Illinois Food System Infrastructure Collaborative?

The Illinois Food System Infrastructure Collaborative (IFSIC) is a community of practice that seeks to cultivate communication, sharing, and collaboration between stakeholders who are developing and managing the infrastructure that is essential to the growth of the Illinois food system.

Illinois Stewardship Alliance is a fiscal sponsor of IFSIC, an independent organization.

What is our goal?

Our goal is to accelerate change and growth in our state’s regional food system by increasing connectivity between the many players and local food projects in our state who are working to develop critical infrastructure that moves food from farm to table. 

Accomplishing this goal can take the form of a number of outcomes:

  • Providing input to lawmakers about critical investments in food system infrastructure
  • Leading or supporting studies that examine the feasibility of various food system infrastructure projects
  • Serving a more active role in collaboration between members, such as convening meetings of specific interest groups or of members who committ to assisting in the development of another member’s project
  • Serving as an initial checkpoint or informal “group consultation” for new projects, helping stakeholders track down the best resources (funding, consultants, partners, technical assistance) for developing a food system infrastructure project

Why is IFSIC important?

It is easy for infrastructure projects and project leaders to wind up siloed as they plan and launch local food system projects, which exacerbates inevitable growing pains, makes expansion more difficult, and can result in duplicative projects or inefficient use of resources. IFSIC intends to share resources for funding, project development, events, jobs, and a whole lot more, while developing a community of camaraderie and pragmatic positivity.

What does IFSIC do? 

Monthly meeting: held every second Tuesday at noon, this is IFSIC’s most basic function. In this meeting, the IFSIC facilitator leads conversation to encourage sharing and collaboration between members. Meetings will often feature a stakeholder or expert from our community who can share a specific story about their work or present on a topic that would be of interest to most members. The meetings are scheduled for an hour, with an optional extra half-hour if some members wish to stay on and continue the conversation.

Monthly resource share: the IFSIC facilitator gathers a list of resources relevant to members each month and shares them in a simple document, sorted by category. Members are able to add content to this resource list by either emailing the facilitator or leaving a comment. This is a running list so members can scroll back to reference prior listed resources.

Annual in-person meetings: IFSIC has had two in-person gatherings since its founding in 2021, and plans to hold an annual meeting in conjunction with the annual Everything Local Conference, held in January in Springfield.

Site visits: IFSIC organizes visits to sites relevant to members. These include food hubs, pilot plants, small food processing facilities, larger food manufacturers, food distribution and storage facilities, and a lot more.

Who participates in IFSIC?

IFSIC participants reflect the diversity of the local food movement in Illinois. Some examples of those representatives are:

  • Chicagoland Food Sovereignty Coalition
  • The City of Galesburg
  • The Village of New Holland
  • The Plant, Chicago
  • College of Lake County, Waukegan
  • Greater Wabash Food Council
  • Illinois Farm Bureau
  • Illinois Institute of Rural Affairs, Western Illinois University
  • Illinois Stewardship Alliance
  • The Land Connection, Champaign
  • Motherland Gardens, Springfield
  • Wasted Food Action Alliance, Chicago

Who leads IFSIC?

Steering Committee: IFSIC is led by a five-member steering committee, made up of members of the collaborative. Currently serving two year terms are:

Stef Funk, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition: Stef Funk (she/hers), is an experienced policy advocate, community organizer, and event planner. Previously she’s worked with the McKinley Park Farmers Market, Plant Chicago, and the Chicago Food Policy Action Council. Stef holds a degree in Environmental Science from Clark University, is an eager crafter, and cares for 13 backyard chickens on the southwest side of Chicago. 

Cindy Jackson, FarmFED Co-op: prior to becoming the general manager of FarmFED Co-op in 2021, Cindy worked for Good Samaritan Inn, successfully implementing several programs such as an urban agriculture job skills training program and a prescription produce program that provided fresh vegetables and preparation classes to at-risk community members in Decatur, Illinois. She has also worked for a large Central Illinois fresh produce farm for over 10 years. 

Alex Frantz, Midwest Foods: Passionate about exploring solutions to the challenges presented by an inequitable and unsustainable food system, Alex has spent over a decade in a variety of roles that cultivate demand, support farmers and growers, and increase the transparency needed to transform it. In her current role at Midwest Foods she utilizes storytelling and reporting to co-create innovative partnerships with farmers and foodservice clients, and she proudly serves on the boards of Central Illinois FarmFED Cooperative, Green City Market, and Advocates for Urban Agriculture

Eliana Pinilla, Common Market: Eliana is a food systems dot connector, life-centered design, innovation leader. Currently facilitating connection between small and medium independent growers and institutional markets at The Common Market, Great Lakes.

Ritchie Wai (he/him), Farmers Rising: sharpened his teeth and nails in AmeriCorps VISTA working with rural Tennessee communities and students to develop sustainable food system projects. He currently works with a diverse and eclectic community of farmers through the Upper Midwest Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training (CRAFT) and a holistic farm business training program – Farm Beginnings.

Facilitator: IFSIC has been facilitated by Jeff Hake since early 2023. Jeff is a farmer and food business owner, the vice-president of the FarmFED Cooperative, Local Food Organizer with Illinois Stewardship Alliance, and president of the Central Illinois Young Farmers Coalition.

Founder: Dan Kenney of Dekalb County Community Gardens founded IFSIC (originally as Illinois Food System Collaborative) in 2021 in part to support DCCG’s ambitious plan to build a mixed-use development with a food hub, shared-use commercial kitchen, food court, and gathering spaces. 

Funding: IFSIC, with Illinois Stewardship Alliance as fiscal sponsor, received funding from the Chicago Region Food System Fund and  from the Illinois Specialty Crop Block Grant program.

Who should join IFSIC?

If you lead or participate in any kind of local food infrastructure project, this is the place for you! Examples include developing or expanding commercial kitchens, local grocery stores, canneries, cold storage, food hubs, meat processors, etc. While on-farm infrastructure is also a critical need in our food system, our focus is more on assets that are found off-farm or that are on-farm but serve a role for multiple other stakeholders in the food system.

Leaders are welcome to join from communities throughout the state that we have not yet connected with in this work, especially BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, women, and veteran farmers, business owners, and advocates.

We recognize that having developed largely by word of mouth and through existing networks, we have ongoing work to do to make new connections. We committ to countering the forces that perpetuate systemic underrepresentation and uneven distribution of resources by creating a wider community of support and space for knowledge sharing as we grow our network.

There are no official member requirements and simply an expectation to engage with the community in a spirit of collaboration, transparency, and camaraderie.  

How do I join IFSIC?

Simple! Complete our interest form to connect to the opportunities with IFSIC. 


Reach out to IFSIC facilitator Jeff Hake at jeff@ilstewards.org with questions.