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How NGO and Private Alliances Can Improve Local Communities’ Food Sovereignty

By: Carla Chinski

Twitter: @thelatestbyte

Post Date: 2024-01-31


Food sovereignty, a concept aimed at empowering local communities to control their food systems, is gaining traction as a vital step towards achieving sustainable food production, addressing climate change, and fighting hunger. Collaboration between non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and private companies has emerged as a powerful tool in promoting food sovereignty across the United States. Food sovereignty advocates for the right of communities to define their own food systems, including the production, processing, distribution, and consumption of food. The movement seeks to ensure that food is accessible, nutritious, culturally appropriate, and produced sustainably. This is in contrast to the globalized, industrial food system that often prioritizes corporate profits over community well-being and environmental sustainability. The World Economic Forum (WEF) published a guide for such collaborations. There is a distinction to be made between what corporations or businesses can do from the private sphere and what value they can bring to the organization. Far from being a terminological discussion, what NGOs need from alliances doesn’t always match what businesses can realistically contribute. Value chains and sector sustainability, new technology introduction, and business strategy renovations are what the WEF highlights as main points of contribution. The value that derives from the contribution is two-fold: strategy and sustainable practices. What NGOs tend to have is a theoretical and metaphorical vision; so, the private sector can take that vision and make sure business practices (such as actions in the community, educational instances, and supply chain and logistics operations) are applied correctly to the market. Private companies, most importantly, can help NGOs have concrete measurements for success. Namely, through both cost-effectiveness and resource allocation. In fact, many companies ask for metrics to ensure that collaboration is fruitful and accounted for. In this sense, companies strive to be enablers, which, according to the WEF’s definition, is a role that implies Supporting actors from diverse stakeholder groups who collaborate with the partnership in specific areas of expertise.

The Potential of Private Companies and NGOs Allyships

Building alliances with private companies has become essential in achieving food sovereignty. These partnerships can provide funding, technical expertise, and marketing support to local food initiatives, amplifying their impact and accelerating their growth. In turn, private companies can benefit from the goodwill and increased consumer loyalty that come with supporting social and environmental causes. A recent study conducted by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) found that partnerships between NGOs and private companies have increased by 40% in the past five years. These collaborations are enabling 65% more small-scale farmers and urban gardeners to access resources and support in the United States.

Collaborations, a Thing of the Present

Fair Food Network (FFN) and Whole Foods Market:

The Fair Food Network, an NGO dedicated to building a more just and sustainable food system, partnered with Whole Foods Market to launch the Double Up Food Bucks program. This initiative matches the value of federal nutrition assistance spent at participating stores, allowing low-income shoppers to purchase more fruits and vegetables. The program has been highly successful, with over 150,000 families benefiting from increased access to healthy food since its inception.

Growing Power and Ecolife Recycling:

Growing Power, an NGO focused on urban agriculture and food security, formed an alliance with Ecolife Recycling, a private waste management company. Together, they implemented a closed-loop system for recycling food waste into compost, which is then used to fertilize urban gardens. This partnership has not only reduced the amount of waste going to landfills, but also improved the soil fertility and productivity of urban farms in Milwaukee and Chicago.

National Young Farmers Coalition (NYFC) and Chipotle:

The NYFC, an organization supporting the next generation of sustainable farmers, teamed up with Chipotle Mexican Grill to launch the Chipotle Young Farmer Program. This initiative provides grants and technical assistance to young farmers, helping them to overcome financial barriers and adopt sustainable farming practices. In its first two years, the program has already supported over 50 young farmers across the United States.


As the United States grapples with the challenges of climate change, inequality, and food insecurity, the need for innovative and collaborative solutions becomes increasingly apparent. These types of alliances play a crucial role in strengthening food sovereignty and fostering more resilient, equitable, and sustainable food systems. By leveraging the resources, expertise, and influence of both sectors, these partnerships are unlocking the potential of local communities to shape their own food futures.

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