GreenLight Fund’s $1.2M investment brings two nonprofits focused on food security to KC

GreenLight Fund Kansas City recently announced a $1.2 million investment spread over four years to bring nonprofit solutions mRelief and Food Connect to the Kansas City region, addressing food security through responsive approaches to dignified food access. The two organizations have already begun work in Kansas City.

mRelief uses technology to remove traditional barriers in the Supplemental Nutrition Access Program (SNAP) application process so that families that qualify for assistance receive it. Food Connect’s logistics expertise and tech platform helps existing community organizations increase the impact of their food security work. Together, these investments will support an equitable food system in Kansas City and ensure more families have access to healthy food.

What is GreenLight Fund Kansas City?

Started in Boston in 2004, GreenLight Fund Kansas City launched in 2018 and has invested $3 million in impactful organizations to address unmet needs in the community. The national nonprofit partners with communities to create opportunities for inclusive prosperity.

“More than 180,000 Kansas Citians are food insecure, including a disproportionate number of Black and Brown families,” said Sarah Courtney Haberberger, executive director of GreenLight Fund Kansas City. “We heard directly from residents that grocery store costs and changes to SNAP benefits are impacting reliable access to healthy food.”

“Food is a human right and we’re thrilled to invest in two distinct, but complementary solutions in mRelief and Food Connect,” she added.

GreenLight led a year-long process in partnership with community members and its Selection Advisory Council to identify opportunities for strategic investment in support of inclusive prosperity.  Food security was elevated as a priority need by both residents and community organizations in Kansas City.  After searching the country, GreenLight identified mRelief and Food Connect as complementary solutions to a complex food system — supporting families’ ability to access and make choices about food today and sustainably.

GreenLight’s model, funded by a coalition of 50-plus local investors, selects and invests in one proven organization each year. The complementary nature of the two finalist organizations made implementing both in Kansas City an opportunity to add significant capacity to the system at a much needed time. The ability to invest in both organizations simultaneously was made possible by GreenLight founding investors, David and Tracy Lockton.

“We’ve seen firsthand how GreenLight’s community-driven process identifies the solutions that are the most needed and the best fit for our community,” the Locktons said in a statement. “Food security is a cause we are passionate about and we’re proud to help bring in two impactful solutions.”

“Social factors like food security are key to supporting community members’ overall health and prosperity,” said Andrea Perdomo Morales, chief health equity officer at Vibrant Health and Selection Advisory Council member. “GreenLight’s process revealed critical opportunities to support families’ access to food now and in the future with responsive investments rooted in community desire.”

mRelief, for example, meets local needs by simplifyingthe SNAP enrollment process by eliminating optional questions from state applications, offering mobile-friendly applications, providing eligibility screening and offering application guidance in person or on the phone.

Porschia Davis, mRelief

According to mRelief, $8.4 million in SNAP benefits go unclaimed each year in Kansas City. mRelief projects they will connect 20,000 Kansas Citians to SNAP benefits over the next four years, unlocking nearly $15 million in benefits to the region and has already begun work in Kansas City, Kansas with local partner Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas.

“Every day, mRelief hears back from SNAP applicants who thank us for helping them put food on the table and making the process user-friendly and shame-free,” said Porschia Davis, interim executive director at mRelief. “We’re so excited to partner with GreenLight Fund and the vibrant network of advocates in Kansas City to address hunger with dignity.”

The other funding recipient, Food Connect, boasts a hunger relief tech solution is now a network of more than 1,300 partners across six states delivering 200,000 last mile meals monthly. In partnership with organizations like KC Food Hub and Vibrant Health, Food Connect will reach 70,000 Kansas Citians over four years through a combination of food rescue, meal delivery and food programming.

mRelief and Food Connect have launched searches for local leaders and will build local advisory councils made up of community, nonprofit and business leaders. GreenLight Fund Kansas City will be an active and strategic local partner to mRelief and Food Connect, supporting local hiring, serving on the advisory boards, advising on strategic planning and connecting the organizations to community partners and funders.

mRelief and Food Connect are GreenLight Fund Kansas City’s fourth and fifth investments, joining Becoming a ManWorking on Womanhood, and All Our Kin.      

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