CFR Mini-Grants: Building Capacity for Collective Impact

GaithersburgHELP is a small non-profit, that among its social services, supplies supplemental food to people who are food insecure. Last year they provided more than 3,800 food packages containing a 3-5 day supply of food. Thanks to a CFR mini-grant to purchase commercial refrigerators, they can now provide healthier food such as meat, fresh vegetables and dairy. Linda Hanson, Executive Director, is thrilled and so grateful for the grant last year, funded by Montgomery County’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Burness, and  the Mead Family Foundation.  “With the purchase of the refrigerators, we increased the amount of perishable food clients can receive. We also purchased movable bins and carts on wheels to make collecting and distributing our recovered food easier to manage,” Linda explained.

GaithersburgHELP purchased rolling carts with their CFR Mini-grant  to make food distribution easier and more efficient.
GaithersburgHELP purchased rolling carts with their CFR Mini-grant to make food distribution easier and more efficient.

Sometimes it’s the small purchases—like carts and bins, that go a long way in helping to build the capacity to serve others. That’s the idea in offering mini-grants of between $500-$20,000 to food assistance organizations and social service agencies that receive and distribute recovered food.

 The Community Food Rescue Mini-Grants Program amplifies CFR network efforts with a focus on building the capacity and infrastructure for food recovery.

Even with a tiny space staffed by volunteers, food assistance organizations provide a lifeline to many throughout the county. In 2015, The New Creation Church served more than 900 family members each month in the Wheaton and Silver Spring area. They used their grant to transform a small closet space into a Food Pantry by purchasing an outdoor storage shed. Reverend Ella Redfield explains how the grant improves their ability to serve their community. “The Church is now able to increase its distribution to two days per month including a Saturday that helps individuals employed during the week to receive necessary food items.”

New Creation Church can now distribute food on Saturdays thanks to a CFR mini-grant purchase of a shed to expand their storage capacity.
New Creation Church can now distribute food on Saturdays thanks to a CFR mini-grant purchase of a shed to expand their storage capacity.

The Montgomery Coalition for the Homeless is the County’s only 24-7 men’s emergency homeless shelter and supplies 60% of the county’s emergency shelter beds. To help clients get back on their feet, they serve three meals per day year-round. They serve 700 men each year, providing more than 140,000 meals.  “CFR’s mini-grant for the purchase of two commercial freezers was essential in helping us get the shelter’s kitchen up to par to accommodate meal donations and recovered food to support the large number of clients we serve”, explained Naira Hirz, Development and Meal Coordinator.

New freezers help MCCH provide nutritious meals to the 700 men they serve.
New freezers help MCCH provide nutritious meals to the 700 men they serve.

In addition to grantees improving their operational infrastructure, Meals on Wheels of Takoma Park used their grant to hire a low-income college student to recover and redistribute recovered food, filling a transportation gap in services and providing a student with some income. Even a small grant can make a huge difference for a large scale agency. The Capital Area Food Bank, Montgomery County’s regional partner, used their grant to make connections for their Donor Direct program. They were able to create relationships so that big-box food donors, like Costco and Sam’s Club, can now donate directly to Manna Food Center, increasing their intake by 23,000 lbs. Their grant also allowed them to work closely with store managers to donate healthy foods.

The Mini-Grants process is managed by Intentional Philanthropy (IP) and Manna Food Center, with the generous support of the Mead Family Foundation. In 2015, CFR Mini-Grants awarded $40,000 to eight agencies. This year, thanks to the Department of Health and Human Services, Burness, and the Mead Family Foundation, $60,000 in grants is available. “We received 16 applications, and are happy to see both returning and new applicants”,  said Carmen Wong, IP’s   Senior Director. A stellar review panel of professional chefs, social service agencies, government officials, and Food Council members, will review and award the grants. “For the larger grant awards, we look for innovative, collaborative approaches that can leverage other resources, increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of food recovery and reducing food insecurity in the county,” shared, one of last year’s reviewers. This year’s grants will be awarded June 1st.

Meals on Wheels Takoma Park hired a low-income student for meals drop off.
Meals on Wheels Takoma Park hired a low-income student to drop off food like this.

 

Grant awardees join the Community Food Rescue network and participate in the MoCo Food Council’s Working Group meetings to share best practices and create collective impact. They are, after all, our champions in the fight to end hunger.

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