Food Security Request for Proposals

Food Security Request for Proposals  

United Way is working to bring an end to inequity in Olmsted County and help people reach their potential. Ensuring access to healthy and culturally relevant foods is a critical for creating conditions in which everyone in our community can thrive. 

Food insecurity is often referred to as hunger, but it is so much than the physical feeling someone has when they don’t have food. Food insecurity is defined as “limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways” (USDA, n.d.). Food insecurity can take many forms including worry that food will run out, purchased food will not last, meal sizes are cut or a meal is skipped, family members eat less than they should or the family cannot afford a balanced meal.

The COVID-19 pandemic reversed progress in food security made in the last 2 decades. This is especially true for people who were already struggling to make ends meet. Across Minnesota, visits to food shelves in 2022 increased by 55%, including a 39% increase in visits by seniors. In Olmsted County, visits to food shelves increased by 64% (Hunger Free Minnesota, 2023). Moreover, stark disparities in financial stability are evident throughout Minnesota and Olmsted County. A far greater proportion of residents who are Black (25%), Indigenous (31%), or Hispanic/Latino (16%) earn incomes below the Federal Poverty Level compared to white residents (7%; U.S. Census 2021a). Consequently, these community members are also more likely to experience food insecurity.

United Way sees a particular need to provide support for food security programs in Olmsted County. We are issuing this Request for Proposals to establish partnerships and offer support for programs that increase food security for individuals and families. We welcome proposals from organizations of all sizes serving Olmsted County’s diverse communities. Organizations serving and led by people of color, immigrants/refugees, people with disabilities, or other underrepresented communities are strongly encouraged to apply.  

The proposal period begins October 30th, 2023. We invite you to review our Request for Proposals below and consider applying.

Special thank you to Matthew Gabb, Kelly Kirkpatrick, and others who contributed to the Olmsted County Food Security Assessment, of which we relied heavily on to understand the food systems in Olmsted County. You can find the report here.

What We’re Funding: 

We seek to invest in local non-profit programs that provide access to high-quality, nutritious, and culturally relevant foods through at least one of following program delivery methods:

  • Food banks, shelves, and pantries
  • Culturally-responsive and/or location-based supplemental food programs
  • Meal delivery, mobile pantries, and congregate dining programs
  • Community-based access to fruits and vegetables 

Programs are required to primarily serve residents with low-incomes (generally < 185% FPL) who are experiencing barriers to food security. See our supporting research for examples of eligible programs.

Additional investment details: 

  • We anticipate making awards to 4-6 programs that improve food security for residents of Olmsted County  

  • Food security grants provide unrestricted program-level funding. Funds are intended to be used for general program operations in alignment with your proposal. Funds are not restricted to any specific line item or program activity  

  • This is a four-year grant to be paid in monthly installments between July 2024 and June 2027

  • Annual award requests should be between $10,000 and $70,000 (this is the award amount for each of four years.) A detailed program and organization budget will be requested for applicants selected to move to the Program Meetings stage of review.


  • Public information session: November 2, 2023, 10:30-11:30 AM via Zoom: RECORDING AVAILABLE HERE Passcode: !2iH%jsC 

  • Full proposals due: November 30, 2023

  • Program meetings (by invitation): January 15-26, 2024 

  • Finalists notified: on or around February 24, 2024

  • Funding begins: July 2024

We would be happy to talk with you about your proposal ideas! To schedule a time to meet with our team, please contact Grace Pesch, Vice President of Community Impact, at 507-287-1533 or

How to Apply: 

Proposals are accepted through United Way of Olmsted County’s online grants portal. The grants portal works best in Google Chrome.  

We strongly encourage you to review the grant application materials carefully before beginning your application. The following documents may help you as you prepare your application:   

Our team is eager to assist you if you have questions about your proposal or are experiencing technical difficulties with your application. For technical support with the proposal process, or to schedule a time to meet with our team to discuss a proposal idea, you may contact Grace Pesch, Vice President of Community Impact at 507-287-1533 or

We also work with talented grant writers to provide guidance and support through this process in the form of a "grant guide." Grant Guides offer support to agencies who have an annual revenue of under $1 million dollars AND do not employ a full time grant writer. To learn more about if you are eligible to utilize a grant guide in this process and how they can help you, click here. 

Proposals will be evaluated by a team of community volunteers, in coordination with United Way of Olmsted County staff. Reviewers will evaluate proposals on the following criteria: 

  • Eligibility: Proposal meets all eligibility requirements and includes all required information 

  • Impact: Proposed program demonstrates strong impact or potential for impact, as demonstrated through program outcomes, continuous improvement, and effective collaboration 

  • Equity: Proposed program effectively serves residents who disproportionately experience barriers to high-quality, nutrituous and culturally relevant foods  

  • Budget: Budget is complete and appropriate for program plans. 

We take a holistic approach to review grant applications. This means reviewers consider how the overall application meets the criteria outlined above. To assist you in understanding how proposals will be reviewed, we are making available our complete evaluation rubric.

To be considered for a Food Security grant, programs must meet the following eligibility criteria:  

  • Serve primarily low-income residents of Olmsted County

  • Improve access to high-quality, nutritious and culturally relevant foods as described above  

  • Be a program of an eligible nonprofit agency 

Eligible nonprofit agencies include: 

  • Agencies designated as a 501c3 

  • Government agencies/units 

  • Faith-based organizations, provided they can demonstrate that there will be no explicitly faith-related content included in their programming and that there are no discriminatory restrictions on service recipients 

  • Community organizations without 501c3 status, provided they can document their relationship with a fiscal sponsor with 501c3 status. 

Funding will not be provided for: 

  • Individuals  

  • For-profit entities 

  • Political campaigns, candidates, parties, or partisan activities 

  • Programming that includes theological functions or requires religious participation. 

We enter partnerships with our grantees with a spirit of service, mutual respect, and transparency. Where our expectations do not align with those of our partners, our team will work with grantees to develop mutually beneficial solutions. If you have questions or concerns about the expectations outlined here, we invite you to speak with our staff at any point during the proposal process. 

United Way of Olmsted County holds the following expectations of our grantees: 

  • Meet with United Way staff at least annually to touch base on your program operations, community needs, and our relationship. 

  • Report annually on program performance measures, including: 

    • Total number of program participants 

    • Participant demographics when available (including race, gender, income, disability status, and city of residence)  

    • Additional performance measures to be co-developed by program staff and United Way 

If you do not currently collect all of this information, our team is available to support you in building your data collection routines to facilitate shared learning about your program and its participants.

  • Submit updated organizational information at least annually, including: 
    • Organization and program budgets 

    • Board of Directors roster 

    • Financial documents, in accordance with United Way’s financial reporting policy 

    • Demographic information about your organization’s staff and Board of Directors, where your data collection and privacy practices allow. 

  • Support United Way’s fundraising and community change efforts; for example, by sharing our program information with your participants, helping us to develop client stories for marketing materials, or hosting an employee giving campaign.

  • Funded program partners and United Way sign a funding agreement annually throughout the grant period. You can find a sample agreement here.

We will review proposals in two stages: 1) Full proposal (a written application) and 2) Program Meetings (by invitation), a meeting with United Way staff and volunteers to discuss the program. Prospective partners will be notified after each stage whether their proposal is advancing in the review process. See graphic below.  

Food Security RFP Timeline

November 2, 2023, 10:30-11:30 am via Zoom: Public information session

An optional public session held via Zoom. United Way staff will provide an overview of the investment opportunity, the program requirements, and the proposal and review process. There will be time for questions and answers. The session will be recorded and will be accessible HERE  (Passcode: !2iH%jsC) after the meeting. Staff are also available for individual follow-up discussions upon request.

November 30, 2023 at 11:59 pm: Full Proposal due

All proposals must be completed by 11:59 pm on November 30, 3023. We encourage you to review the proposal questions in advance. All proposals should be submitted through UWOC’s online grants portal. For assistance with the online tool, please contact Grace Pesch at 507-287-1533 or Applicants will be notified about the status of their proposal on or around December 18, 2023.

January 15-26, 2024: Program meetings (by invitation)

Those continuing to the next stage in the application process will be invited to program meetings with United Way volunteers and staff. At this time, we will also request a program and an organization budgets. Budgets may be submitted in your own preferred format; if you do not have a budget template of your own, a sample can be found on our website (Budget Help Page). Applicants advancing to this stage of review will be asked to submit their budgets by December 18, 2023. Budgets should be uploaded to your Community Force application by January 3, 2024.  

Program meetings are intended to learn more about your program and clarify any remaining questions our reviewers have about your program. These meetings are also a time for us to answer any questions your organization has about a potential partnership with United Way of Olmsted County. Staff decision recommendations will be communicated to finalists by February 5th. All partnership commitments are subject to approval by United Way of Olmsted County’s Board of Directors.  

February 23, 2024: Final partnership approval 

Finalists can anticipate being notified of the final status of their proposal on or around February 23, 2023, after United Way’s Board of Directors has approved its final decision. 

March 2024: Development of performance measures

Applicants who are recommended for funding will work together with United Way staff to develop the performance measures to be reported during the funding cycle. These measurements will be co-created and specific to the program. United Way of Olmsted County uses the Results-Based Accountability (RBA) framework and will support programs in developing RBA measurement plans. 

July 2024: Funding begins 

First disbursements of Food Security grants will be made in July 2024. Awards are disbursed in monthly installments. Prior to the first disbursement of funds, UWOC will execute funding agreements with all partners.