City Watchdog – Embracing difference is so worthwhile

There is a great deal of uncertainty in the non-profit world. A missed grant can cause some of the best ideas to disappear.

There is a great deal of uncertainty in the non-profit world. A missed grant, a shift in the political climate, even a rent increase can cause some of the best ideas to simply disappear into the background. The history of the Good Food Box Program is no happy accident. The Capital has recognized a need to support local agriculture and healthy living through this project.

The Good Food Box program was founded 13 years ago on the simple principle that everyone — not just the rich — should be able to afford local, healthy, organic food. Although it now has a handful of part-time staff, the program has remained almost entirely volunteer-run and held true to its goal of providing affordable, socially conscious food for well over a decade.

Recently, the Good Food Box program has been looking to settle down. “Before it was always being run in that crisis mode that non-profits often are,” says Executive Director Sushil Saini. Seeking a more sustainable way of life, two years ago Saini and the Good Food folks left grant funding behind and embraced a new model of social enterprise. Despite a few close calls, the program gained the support of community funders and local non-profit heavies and today is well on its way to independence.

Not content to just keep things running, the Good Food Box program has continued to expand. The list of new and future projects — from workshops for kids and parents, to increasing food box delivery from monthly to biweekly — runs longer than seems possible for such a small organization, something Saini credits to the program’s ever-growing number of clients and strong connection to local farmers.

Now serving 450 families, schools, and community groups across the southern Island, the Good Food Box program still manages to bring it all back to the idea that started it all. “Once [food is] commodified,” says Saini, “its value goes from being a life-sustaining, life-saving item to a dollar value.”

Just like every other earnestly civic-minded project, the Good Food Box could have failed a dozen times over, only it didn’t. So when you go to pick up your food box next month, remember: this is what happens when our community finally decides to embrace something different. M

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