Nonprofit Social Innovation Hub: Nourish PHX partnership connects local growers to people in need

Nonprofit Social Innovation Hub: Nourish PHX partnership connects local growers to people in need

Nourish PHX

Photo courtesy Nourish PHX

by Alexandra Conforti, ASU Lodestar Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Innovation

October 6, 2021

A new nonprofit collaboration hopes to increase fresh produce donations within the Phoenix area. Enter Fresh Food Connect, a food donation mobile app that is pushing the boundaries for how gardeners can provide fruits and vegetables to the community, and Nourish PHX, a nonprofit fighting poverty in Phoenix since the 1980s.

Beth Fiorenza, executive director of Nourish PHX for nearly four years, said that current produce donations are low, but the turnaround time to disperse fresh foods must be fast to avoid any waste. With current partner organizations such as Friendly House, St. Joseph the Worker and Dress for Success, Nourish PHX is able to exchange clothes, education, and career resources. Now with the Fresh Food Connect partnership, fresh produce will also be much more available.

Nourish PHX, formerly known as ICM Food and Clothing Bank, provides services for the working poor in Phoenix. Their organization offers free services including food boxes, shoes, clothing and toiletries through donations from grocery stores, individuals, corporations, other organizations and food banks. A new job and resource center is also in the works for the organization and will feature education and employment assistance, with classes beginning soon on financial literacy and other agency partnerships.

Launched in 2020, Fresh Food Connect currently operates with local nonprofits across 20 states and allows gardeners to donate excess fruits and vegetables to those who need them most. Donations of money and food are also generated through the app from the public. Fiorenza believes this partnership will make a vast impact on the area, as last year alone Nourish PHX served roughly 20,000 families in need of their human services.

“Our mission here, and something that's kind of been my pet project since I got here was to really get more fresh produce into the pantry boxes,” Fiorenza said. “So I contacted [Fresh Food Connect] right away, and we were the first food pantry to work with them in the Phoenix area, which is awesome.”

The app’s vision is to contribute to “building more resilient communities with a neighbor-supporting-neighbor mentality,” according to Laura Lavid, product and operations director at Fresh Food Connect. Started in 2016 as a pilot project in Denver, Colorado, three organizations came together to contemplate if gardeners had an avenue to participate in hunger relief efforts. Soon, Fresh Food Connect was established and quickly turned from a web platform into an easily accessible app.

“We are working to engage gardeners in the Phoenix area to support local hunger relief efforts with emphasis on really increasing the access to healthy produce,” said Lavid. “Nourish PHX does a ton of really great work, and so for them to have an additional way to procure produce and engage more people in their work is a value added to the work they're already doing.”

Lavid pointed out that with every community and organization being different, the team at Fresh Food Connect has altered the app to ensure simplicity and flexibility, but also allows for adaptation to the local community needs.

The partnership between Nourish PHX and Fresh Food Connect launched in mid-September. The first steps included getting the information out for people to sign up through the app and begin donating. With the growing season in Phoenix just beginning, the hot daytime temperatures, followed by the drop at night, make it a great time for everybody to get started on their fall gardens.

Fiorenza said that in 2020 the organization received a fairly large grant due to COVID-19 in order to purchase fresh produce, but that was not something to count on annually.

“I just think it's a great app to utilize for any backyard gardener. We also work with a community garden here in Phoenix, the Grant Park Community Garden, and for people like that who may have beds in your local community garden, you can grow and give your extra produce to the food bank and the pantries here in Phoenix,” Fiorenza said. “It's a great connector and it really builds community.”

“I hope other food pantries get involved, where people can go on the app, sign up and donate their extra produce because we don't want anything going to waste either,” she added. “So it's a great way to get that extra produce into the hands of somebody else who really needs it and wants it.”

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Nonprofit Innovation Hub

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