Five years ago, The California Endowment launched the FreshWorks initiative to address the problem of “food deserts” in our state—neighborhoods without access to supermarkets or other places to buy fresh, healthy, and affordable food.
In addition to making grants, FreshWorks issues loans to nonprofit and for-profit entrepreneurs developing innovative solutions to expand healthy food retail.
FreshWorks was an experiment for The Endowment. We had never been involved with an initiative using so many different financing methods and innovative philanthropic approaches.
Experiments sometimes fail…but I’m thrilled to report that an evaluation released today says FreshWorks is a success!
The study finds that recipients of FreshWorks funding have increased access to fresh food for more than 800,000 Californians. And, FreshWorks has created or retained more than 1,900 jobs and generated hundreds of millions of dollars in economic impact.
We are making progress, but we still have much more to do. Even as we celebrate FreshWorks’ five-year anniversary, we still aren’t close to eliminating food deserts in California. We are even further away from our ultimate goal of making the healthy choice the easy choice in all our communities. Achieving that vision will require a sustained long-term commitment, investments in a broader range of community priorities, and new partnerships with many sectors—including the food and beverage industry.
The California Endowment is in this fight for the long haul, and so are many of our FreshWorks partners.
I want to take this opportunity to thank them for working so closely with us during the past five years. Our allies include big traditional lenders like JP Morgan Chase, health providers like Kaiser Permanente, public entities including First Five Los Angeles, and other large foundations, like The W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Our partners have provided much more than financing for FreshWorks, they have also lent their expertise and countless hours of volunteer service. I especially want to acknowledge Capital Impact Partners, the FreshWorks fund administrator from 2011-2015, for their partnership and dedication toward increasing fresh food access. I also welcome the Northern California Community Loan Fund, which will serve as the FreshWorks program manager beginning this year.
Thank you all! FreshWorks could not have been so successful without your support.