Feeding the Most Vulnerable with the Kristof Impact Initiative

November 20, 2020

The hunger crisis in the United States is not a new phenomenon. In early 2020, national food insecurity was at its lowest point in over 20 years, a decisive win for those working to bring necessary means to individuals with low incomes. And then, COVID hit. The anvil onto all hunger relief and economic empowerment efforts to close the gap between the food insecure and security. Now over 50 million people may struggle to put food on their table. 

This Spring, FareStart and its Catalyst Kitchens member network were honored to be selected by Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times journalist Nicholas Kristof for his Kristof Impact Initiative, a call-to-action to raise funds for five national nonprofits working in COVID-19 relief efforts. In partnership with Focusing Philanthropy, the initiative kicked off with an opinion piece from in the New York Times outlining how readers can help “change lives in the pandemic” by financially supporting nonprofits on the frontlines.

Kristof’s words resonated with many and his audience responded with an outpouring of generosity, totaling in over $1.6 million distributed among 52 Catalyst Kitchens organizations to fund their hunger relief efforts. This money came at a perfect time for our members and has opened doors for them in many ways.

Our members are taking their operations to whole new levels this year to feed the most vulnerable. Many have doubled or tripled the number of meals served daily, like Inspiration Corporation. Some members are providing grocery staples and meal kits in large quantities to the community, like Food Education Fund and the Maryland Food Bank. Others were able to hire past graduates as apprentices or full-time employees to add hands in the kitchen preparing meals, like Kitchens for Good and Stone Soup PDX. FareStart’s Catalyst Kitchens network has delivered millions of meals to senior centers, shelters, schools, and in facilities with open door policies to anyone in need of a meal.

The grants from the Kristof Impact Initiative have helped to feed millions during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Hear from a few of our members about the impact at their organization:

"Since March, we have been able to distribute nearly 12,000 meals to 800 families, as well as over 240,000 meals worth of groceries. The families we serve live in all five boroughs of NYC, around 85% live below the poverty line, many are recent immigrants, a growing number are currently experiencing homelessness, and others are currently living in domestic violence shelters. We have been able to do last mile delivery for all meals, which has been crucial as 95% of our families have indicated they are not able to go outside and pick up at a designated pickup site. The Catalyst Kitchens grant helped us TREMENDOUSLY to expand our ability to serve our families, adding 3,648 meals via meal kits so far and counting!”Food Education Fund

“The timing of the grant could not have been better as Homeward Bound's funding from California's ‘Great Plates Delivered’ program ended right as we learned about the Catalyst Kitchens Kristof C19 Initiative. Through Great Plates Delivered, we prepared and home-delivered many hundreds of weekly meals for vulnerable seniors in our community. Because of your support, our team has been able to continue fulfilling this service, and graduates of our culinary job training program, Fresh Starts Culinary Academy, are receiving paid employment to prepare the meals and make contactless deliveries.” - Homeward Bound of Marin

Thanks to the funding from Catalyst Kitchens by FareStart, Kitchens for Good (KFG) was able to sustain its meal production and prepare 32,861 meals in June. This funding supported the ongoing wages of five apprentices who have been hired to work in the kitchen to support hunger relief meal production. Apprentices have greatly enjoyed getting to be a part of the meal production. One employed alumni Karen shared, ‘Prior to Kitchens for Good I was homeless, with very little hope for my future. I feel blessed to now be able to give back to the community that is struggling, because I was there. The kitchen has been a bright spot during this dark time.’” – Kitchens for Good

“Thanks in part to support from Catalyst Kitchens' Kristof C19 Initiative, the Philabundance Community Kitchen was able to accept a new contract in July to produce 500 meals a week for seniors and their families in the Philadelphia neighborhood of Sharswood, which is home to some of the highest poverty, un-and-under employment and food insecurity in the city. We are working with the Brewerytown-Sharswood Neighborhood Advisory Council to provide healthy, free meals to low-income households throughout these neighborhoods.” – Philabundance

In times of crisis, nonprofits exist on the front lines. They are a vital component to the fabric of American society, the defenders of equitable resource distribution when the economy takes a sudden turn for the worst and many are left without a backup plan. FareStart and our Catalyst Kitchens network stepped up, pulling their financial resources, labor, and existing kitchens to supply anyone who came to their door with a meal or a grocery box, no questions asked. Some so much as doubled or tripled their output in a matter of months. To date, our network is serving over 100,000 meals a day, a 135% increase to production in 2019.

Along with funding, our grant recipients have access to Catalyst Kitchens technical assistance and training workshops to help nonprofits pivot to our new reality. These offerings include our Train the Trainer Workshop, designed for chef trainers to hone their coaching and student evaluation skills (currently offering support on shifting training to a virtual format), and our Nonprofit Contract Meals series, a three part workshop series focused on strategies for sustaining large volume meals production.

Thank you to the Kristof Impact Initiative and Focusing Philanthropy for providing necessary funding at a pressing time for our membership network. We are planning a second round of funding that will reach new members and provide more funding for ongoing hunger relief efforts in the network.

Thank you to our member network for showing up every day to feed our communities in their time of need. We hope we can continue to work together to provide needed aid to those experiencing the fallout of the current pandemic and that we can soon start to rebuild together, one meal at a time.  

For updates on our network’s ongoing COVID-19 hunger relief efforts, visit our COVID-19 Response page.

Blog Category: 

Community Engagement

Corinne Molz

Corinne brings experience to her role of Communications Coordinator from her background in event planning, international development undergraduate degree, and her passion for the foodservice job training social enterprise model. Her career goals are devoted to lifting others out of the cycle of poverty through economic empowerment through employment/workforce development. She previously served FareStart as a Catering Captain, Catalyst Kitchens as Program Associate, and currently manages all More