Launches new “Food for Climate Solutions” grants program and recommits to its Environmental Education and Jane’s Fellowship programs
June 7, 2023 (Gig Harbor, Wash.) – The Russell Family Foundation (TRFF) has officially announced it will prioritize addressing the climate crisis throughout its investment strategy, operations and grantmaking, including the launch of a new program, “Food for Climate Solutions,” that fosters a thriving local and regional food system in Western Washington. As an environmentally focused organization since its inception, this announcement deepens TRFF’s focus on climate change, for which it announced a Net Zero carbon emissions commitment across its entire investment portfolio last year.
“The Foundation spent 2022 exploring more about Net Zero, regional food systems, and reflecting on our mission and planning for our future. We reimagined our focus, vision, and values to center on addressing the climate crisis while prioritizing equity, justice, and belonging in all that we do,” said TRFF CEO Kathleen Simpson. “This next chapter we envision for TRFF is a natural progression of our work over the last nearly 25 years protecting our environment and investing in the most impacted communities.”
As part of reimagining its strategic priorities, TRFF has also recommitted to its Environmental Education and Jane’s Fellowship programs. The Environmental Education program offers outdoor learning experiences for youth in Jefferson, King, Kitsap, Pierce, and Thurston counties in Washington state. To date, this program has given 471 grants in total and recently finalized its 2023 grant cycle. The Jane’s Fellowship Program is an intensive year-long leadership development program that strengthens the capacity of grassroots and community leaders in Pierce County. The cohort-based program is currently in its 10th class with 15 fellows working on a wide range of community challenges. This year’s class will join a network of 100 alumni upon completion of the program later this year. The Foundation expects to launch recruitment for its next class in summer 2023.
The new Food for Climate Solutions program will begin accepting grant applications in July 2023 from Western Washington organizations that are increasing the sustainability of local farm businesses, supporting farmers, strengthening the regional food system, and promoting the adoption of climate-resilient, organic, and regenerative farming practices that will sequester more carbon, promote soil health and reduce reliance on transporting industrial-grown food from other regions.
“We see a high-impact opportunity through Food for Climate Solutions to address climate impacts while also boosting more equitable access to healthy and affordable food grown locally,” said Erin Kahn, TRFF Director of Strategy and Programs.
The Foundation is prioritizing grantmaking to organizations serving historically excluded communities, given the systemic barriers they face to land access and sustainable farm enterprises. Today, 89 percent of Washington’s farms are small, but generate only 6.3 percent of the state’s total agriculture value. TRFF aims to play a role in shifting these statistics.
“The climate crisis requires urgent action, and we believe that our new vision for the future provides a roadmap for how we can make a meaningful impact. We are committed to working with our partners and grantees to achieve a sustainable and equitable Puget Sound region for generations to come,” said Chris Rurik, TRFF Board of Directors Vice President and Grants Committee Chair.
Since announcing its Net Zero commitment last fall, the Foundation has been working to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions across its entire investment portfolio consistent with a maximum temperature rise of 1.5 degrees Celsius. Net Zero will be achieved when the amount of greenhouse gases produced is no more than the amount removed from the environment. As part of its learning, TRFF recently partnered with Confluence Philanthropy to create two convenings on Net Zero to bring together peer foundations and their investment advisors interested in adopting similar decarbonization commitments. The Foundation also engaged Carbon Direct Inc. to perform baseline measures on its operational and grantmaking emissions and peer review its investment advisor’s portfolio baseline. Later this year, TRFF plans to announce its targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions to achieve Net Zero. To learn more about TRFF’s commitment and commonly asked questions, see here.
“There is no roadmap for how to achieve Net Zero, but by taking an intentional approach, we can do our part and hopefully inspire other foundations to contribute to a more resilient world,” said Sarah Cleveland, Investment & Audit Committee Chair. “Philanthropic organizations have the flexibility to apply a variety of tools to address the climate crisis.”
In 2004, TRFF took an exploratory leap into impact investing and has transitioned its portfolio to nearly 95 percent values aligned. In 2006, the Foundation signed an investor letter from the Carbon Disclosure Project, an investors’ movement to address greenhouse gas emissions by global corporations. In 2014, TRFF was an original signatory to the DivestInvest Philanthropy Pledge, and this signaled a significant moment for philanthropy to take greater action against climate change by ensuring its investment holdings didn’t contribute to harmful climate impacts. To learn more about TRFF’s history and trajectory to committing to Net Zero, read its initial announcement here.
For additional information including learning more about TRFF’s new mission, vision, and values visit www.trff.org/about.
About The Russell Family Foundation
The Russell Family Foundation (TRFF) invests in people and places to advance environmental sustainability and address the climate crisis. Its vision is to support a thriving, equitable, and sustainable earth. It does so through its commitment to Net Zero in its investment portfolio and operations, grantmaking programs in environmental education and food for climate solutions, and a leadership development program for grassroots leaders in Pierce County. Founded by George and Jane Russell, TRFF has been a way for extended family members to make a positive philanthropic impact locally, regionally, and globally since 1999. For more information, visit www.trff.org.