Cash and gumption: Food nonprofits to support

Here are organizations from all over the country worth donating to

Published December 17, 2009 2:01AM (EST)

Alissa J. Novoselick and her class at Camp Verde High School
Alissa J. Novoselick and her class at Camp Verde High School

Alissa Novoselick's story of how $40 and some gumption planted a school garden that created a community made me think about food-related nonprofits in general, spread across the country, working on an enormous range of issues. Hunger is the most obvious one, but how about helping immigrant women to build small businesses out of their home cooking? Or helping abused kids find love and hope by teaching them to grow food and care for animals? Or telling the stories of American food traditions that may not last another generation?

We asked our Kitchen Cabinet and other friends in the field to suggest their favorite organizations, and just some of the most compelling, most effective ones are below. Browse the list for groups working in your area, or for groups tackling issues that matter to you, though of course many of these organizations' work bridges our categories.

Please consider supporting them this holiday season (and beyond) and please let us know about your favorite organizations in the comments.

(As always, it makes sense to do your own research on the organizations you're supporting. is a great resource, giving you access to nonprofits' financial documents and other information.) 


Forget Me Not Farm (Sonoma County, Calif.)
Recommended by Clark Wolf, Kitchen Cabinet
Clark says, "Tucked behind the local Humane Society building, rescued animals are part of a program to help care for rescued kids. Those abused or neglected kids learn to grow food for cancer patients and help take care of the animals, so all hearts are moved towards healing. Much good is done on small plots."

Take Back the Kitchen at Haley House Cafe (Boston)
Recommended by Bryant Terry, Kitchen Cabinet
The Café focuses on what cooking can do for a community by offering both health-oriented cooking classes and professional skills training for youths and adults, and even hosting school chemistry food science classes.

Liberty's Kitchen (New Orleans)
Recommended by Lolis Eric Elie, journalist and documentary filmmaker
This working bakery, restaurant and caterer is staffed by at-risk teens receiving culinary skills training.

Careers Through Culinary Arts Program (national)
Recommended by Francis Lam
C-CAP works with underserved high school students, providing culinary training, internships, and scholarships to culinary school. 


La Cocina (San Francisco)
Recommended by John T. Edge, Kitchen Cabinet
Focusing on immigrant women, La Cocina is a resource and incubator for informal food entrepreneurs, providing commercial kitchen space, training, and technical support for aspiring small business owners.

Coalition of Immokalee Workers (Immokalee, Fla.)
Recommended by Bryant Terry
Organizing tomato pickers in Florida to combat literal slave-labor conditions. For an extraordinary story on their work, click here.

Federation of Southern Cooperatives (Rural South)
Recommended by John T. Edge
John T. says, "The Federation came out of the Civil Rights movement to abate black land loss. Working in some of the poorest counties in the country, they have training centers to teach farmers to get value out of their crops." The Federation also has other assistance programs including a credit union that's made over $200 million in loans.

American Farmland Trust (national)
Recommended by Molly O'Neill, Pulitzer-nominated journalist
Through advocacy, research, and outreach, AFT works to protect our most valuable farmlands from overdevelopment.

Penobscot East Resource Center (Eastern Maine)
Recommended by Molly O'Neill
Molly says, "They are working tirelessly to demonstrate that local management of individual fisheries is the key to healthy U.S. fisheries." 


Camp Verde Community Garden (Camp Verde, Ariz.)
Recommended by Francis Lam
If you haven't already, read the phenomenal story on this school. If you'd like to give, the contact information is in the comments section below.

Similar efforts:

Garden School Foundation (Los Angeles)
Recommended by Marisa Gierlich, General Manager, Street restaurant

Guerneville School Garden (Guerneville, Calif.)
Recommended by Clark Wolf

California School Garden Network (California)
Recommended by Clark Wolf
A network and information resource for new and existing school gardens in California.

Similar efforts:

Maine School Garden Network (Maine)
Recommended by Clark Wolf 


Louie's Kids (Charleston, S.C., and national)
Recommended by Christine Gaspar, Executive Director, Center for Urban Pedagogy
This group creates individual plans for obese children to lose weight and create healthy habits and helps them stick to them, sometimes by simply taking them outside to play.

Wellness in the Schools (New York City)
Recommended by Bill Telepan, Chef-Owner, Telepan
Working with volunteers, including professional chefs, this group works in public schools to prepare appetizing and healthful meals within schools' budgets.

New York Coalition for Healthy School Food (New York City)
Recommended by Bill Telepan
Working with chefs, the coalition offers healthful recipes within school purchasing guidelines for use in cafeterias, and conducts education programs and dinners for students and their parents.

Chez Panisse Foundation (projects in California, New Orleans, and Greensboro, N.C.)
Recommended by Molly O'Neill
Home of the Edible Schoolyard, this is Alice Waters's project to help reform school lunches by making a working garden both a part of a school's curriculum and cafeteria. 


Wholesome Wave Foundation (Connecticut and national)
Recommended by Ashley Hall, Atlanta-based wine sales director and Gina Hopkins, owner, Restaurant Eugene
The foundation doubles the value of food stamps when they're used to buy local produce at farmers' markets across the country.

Georgia Organics (Georgia)
Recommended by Ashley Hall and Gina Hopkins
Georgia Organics is a support system for Georgia sustainable farms, giving them technical assistance and connecting them to new markets in underserved neighborhoods and schools

Just Food (New York City)
Recommended by Anna Lappe, Kitchen Cabinet
Links struggling local small farms to new markets in nutritionally underserved neighborhoods.

Jones Valley Urban Farm (Birmingham, Ala.)
Recommended by John T. Edge and Ashley Hall
In the center of the city of Birmingham, Jones Valley works with volunteers to turn abandoned lots into a working farm, using the proceeds from produce and flower sales to fund health education programs. For a wonderful documentary on their work, go here.

Similar efforts:

Growing Power (Milwaukee and Chicago)
Recommended by Bryant Terry and Anna Lappe

The Food Project (Boston)
Recommended by Bryant Terry and Anna Lappe

East New York Farms (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
Recommended by Bryant Terry and Anna Lappe

The People's Grocery (Oakland, Calif.)
Recommended by Bryant Terry and Anna Lappe

Growing Hope (Ypsilanti, Mich.)
Recommended by Shelby Kibler, Kitchen Cabinet 


Feeding America (formerly America's Second Harvest) (national and local)
Recommended by Molly O'Neill
Food banks are some of the most immediate, direct ways to address hunger, and Feeding America collects and distributes food and funds to local food banks across the country. Their website allows you to search for the food bank nearest you.

Similar efforts:

Magic City Harvest (Birmingham, Ala.)
Recommended by Ashley Hall

Atlanta Community Food Bank (Atlanta)
Recommended by Ashley Hall

Food Gatherers (Washtenaw County, Mich.)
Recommended by Shelby Kibler

Share our Strength (national)
Recommended by Molly O'Neill, Lolis Eric Elie, and Susan Feniger, Chef/Owner, Street restaurant
SOS is a national grantmaker and network of local organizations partnering with restaurants to feed hungry children, with a particular focus on post-Katrina Louisiana.

World Hunger Year (national)
Recommended by Anna Lappe
Founded by Bill Ayres (no, not Bill Ayers) and the late singer Harry Chapin, WHY raises funds for new and existing hunger and poverty organizations, and helps them replicate their most successful programs in other communities.

Heifer International (international)
Recommended by Anna Lappe
Donates farm animals to families in developing countries to produce dairy, eggs, and wool for food and income. 


Ecotrust (West Coast)
Recommended by Greg Higgins, Kitchen Cabinet
Ecotrust creates public and private partnerships to invest hundreds of millions in sustainable businesses and conservation initiatives.

Chefs' Collaborative (national)
Recommended by Greg Higgins
The Collaborative educates chefs on sustainably-produced ingredients, and connects them to local producers.

American Livestock Breed Conservancy (national)
Recommended by Molly O'Neill
Working to ensure bio-diversity in an increasingly specialized agricultural industry, ALBC researches breed characteristics and keeps a gene bank for endangered breeds.

The Land Institute (Kansas and national)
Recommended by Molly O'Neill
Inspired by prairie ecology, the Land Institute develops plant breeds and farming methods that are more productive and resource efficient than conventional agriculture.

Small Planet Fund (international)
Recommended by Anna Lappe
A fund committed to supporting eight organizations (two of which have been awarded Nobel Peace Prizes) tackling issues from deforestation in Kenya to preventing farmer suicides in India.

Seed Savers Exchange (Iowa and national)
Recommended by Susan Feniger
SSE is a member-driven bank and market of disappearing and heirloom fruit and vegetable seeds, preserving over 25,000 varieties of plants. 


Southern Food and Beverage Museum (New Orleans)
Recommended by Jessica Harris, Kitchen Cabinet
Where else in our country but New Orleans would you find a place so proud of its cuisine as to build a museum to it? But beyond New Orleans food, SOFAB celebrates and teaches -- through programs, events, parties, and collections -- us all about the diverse foods of the entire South.

Southern Foodways Alliance (South and national)
Recommended by Jessica Harris and Francis Lam
The SFA documents and celebrates the traditional and new food cultures of the South, through films, oral histories, eating, and just plain talking. 


The Food Security Partners of Middle Tennessee (Tenn.)
Recommended by Robin Riddell, Slow Food Nashville
Bringing together and coordinating collaboration among individuals, nonprofits, and businesses working towards a safe, affordable, healthy food system in central TN.

Similar efforts:

Roots of Change (Calif.)
Recommended by Peter Jacobsen, Kitchen Cabinet

New Orleans Food and Farm Network (New Orleans)
Recommended by Lolis Eric Elie 

By Francis Lam

Francis Lam is Features Editor at Gilt Taste, provides color commentary for the Cooking Channel show Food(ography), and tweets at @francis_lam.

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