But when Jilly Stephens became executive director in 2006, the change in leadership led to expansion of the ways City Harvest works to attack hunger. The organization is increasing its food-rescue goals, but a new initiative, the Healthy Neighborhoods program, sees it examining the root causes of hunger in the city, looking at the most vulnerable neighborhoods and residents, and “addressing the issues that get people off of the food lines so that emergency food is really for emergencies and not what people are living on,” Wallace says.
The organization has programs in place to increase access to affordable, fresh produce and provide nutrition education for low-income residents of all ages. Through its Healthy Neighborhoods programs, City Harvest partners with residents, community organizations, after-school programs and local businesses to achieve a long-term impact in the fight against hunger by engaging residents in healthy choices and enhancing the local food landscape.
Some donors may be somewhat uncomfortable with what they perceive as a departure from City Harvest’s stock-in-trade, which is food rescue and delivery, but Wallace says the organization is making an effort to assure them that the new initiative is indeed in keeping with its mission.
“We took a moment to really look forward,” she says. “We wanted to identify and solve a problem, and we needed to challenge our donors and our community to step up and be with us and do more. We can always do more, we just need the resources to do it.
“It was a matter of stepping out of our comfort zone,” she adds. “We did lots of risk analysis, lots of SWOT analysis, but in the end it was a leap of faith to say this is what we think we can do and are willing to take on that challenge. A lot of organizations get used to doing something and being successful at it, but sometimes we need to step up and take risks and be willing to put a stake in the ground and say, ‘We are going to do more and have a bigger impact. We need to do something dramatic to address the need.’”