The Jesus Center is a community resource for food distribution, but also for food rescue, serving as a location where local restaurants, grocery stores, and caterers can bring unwanted food, which is then prepared in meals served to the homeless and vulnerable populations. However, inquiries to provide unwanted food to the Jesus Center sometimes had to go unmet, with the non-profit having a lack of transportation to pick-up food and a reliance on providers delivering unwanted food to the Jesus Center’s facility. The Jesus Center also lacked dedicated personnel to coordinate food deliveries and manage inventory, often times having to rely on personnel already tasked with other important duties to help arrange for food deliveries and distribution. Preparing meals on a daily basis was also bringing normal wear and tear to the kitchen’s aging equipment and the Jesus Center was facing the need to make significant investments in ovens, storage, and other key pieces of equipment to continue to rescue, prepare, and distribute food.
Morrison continually stays up to date on grant announcements from a number of state and federal agencies and learned that CalRecycle had plans to announce a new grant program, the Food Waste Prevention and Rescue Grant Program. The grant aimed to pay for equipment and personnel as part of a larger program purpose to reduce unwanted food going into landfills. After participating in a workshop that shared further information about the program, Morrison presented the opportunity to the Jesus Center, knowing their needs and their ability to meet the goals of the grant program. Funding for equipment and vehicles is extremely rare in grant world, so this opportunity was a significant find for the Jesus Center and their food rescue efforts. The Jesus Center engaged Morrison to prepare their grant proposal and quickly decided that the greatest impact on the community would be through a collaboration on the grant project with the Community Action Agency of Butte County’s North State Food Bank, which distributed 54,217 food boxes in 2017. Morrison worked closely with the team at the Jesus Center and the Community Action Agency of Butte County to develop a collaborative budget, secure the needed support and commitment letters from a broad range of project stakeholders (including county officials, university administrators, city officials, school district officials, non-profit and for-profit collaborators), and write a compelling narrative to position the grant proposal as competitively as possible.
The Jesus Center received nearly $500,000 towards their food rescue efforts in Butte County. Fifty-one applicants throughout the state applied for funding under the new grant program; in the first cycle of funding, only 11 agencies, including the Jesus Center, received funding. The Jesus Center was the only organization north of the Bay Area to be selected for funding, and received the third largest grant award in the state. Through grant funding the Jesus Center has been able to add new staff and increase their vocational training capacity as well as meaningfully divert food waste from the landfill. Funding has also paid for new vehicles, and upgraded kitchen and storage equipment (including refrigerators and an oven). Executive Director Laura Cootsona was quoted in the Chico Enterprise Record as saying the project had expansive benefits beyond the Jesus Center: “This is all to raise the tide for everyone in the community and the benefit is protecting our environment.”
About the client
The Jesus Center is a non-profit organization in Chico, California (Butte County) that provides support programs to restore those suffering from isolation to community integration. The Jesus Center operates a shelter for women and children, provides transitional housing to vulnerable populations, and through their commercial kitchen, serves more than 100,000 meals a year. Additionally, the Jesus Center provides vocational training and internship opportunities through the Jesus Center kitchen, a landscaping crew, the Jesus Center Farm, and the Bloomin’ Hope Flower Cart to offer opportunities for participants to invest in their futures and build a sense of dignity through work. The Jesus Center serves a critical role in food rescue and distribution efforts in Butte County, which suffers from a 20.5% poverty rate, and an 18% food insecurity rate – some of the highest rates in the state.