What Can This Whole Foods Foundation Do for Nonprofit Groups in Philly?

In the past, we’ve highlighted some of the giving of the upscale grocery giant Whole Foods. The Whole Kids Foundation has worked with schools to address better eating and school gardens, and the Whole Planet Foundation has a microfinance program that awards grants in Asia, Africa, the Americas, and the Middle East. But today, we’re looking at a different type of Whole Foods philanthropy, which brings us to the city of Philadelphia.

A Philadelphia nonprofit called Urbanstead recently caught the attention of the high-end grocer and secured a $5,000 grant for a really interesting project. This grant comes from the Whole Cities Foundation, which is the third independent nonprofit foundation established by Whole Foods Market. This foundation was launched back in February 2014 with a goal to improve individual and community health through collaborative partnerships, education, and access to nutritious food.

Urbanstead is a community farming and youth education organization, and it’ll be using Whole Foods’ money to build a sustainable, 100 percent solar greenhouse. It’ll be the very first passive solar greenhouse in Philadelphia and located at Francisville Urban Farm and Orchard at Ridge Avenue and Wylie Street.

The Whole Cities Foundation made this grant through its Community First Grant Program, which typically supports things like urban farms, community gardens, and pop-up produce shops. Another Philadelphia organization, Urban Tree Connection, also secured a Whole Cities Foundation grant to help local low-income urban communities revitalize neighborhoods by turning abandoned spaces into positive places. This group has mostly worked in West Philadelphia’s Haddington neighborhood.

But interestingly, Philadelphia is not one of the communities that the Whole Cities Foundation typically supports. The communities that the Whole Cities Foundation has primarily served are Newark, Englewood in Chicago, New Orleans, Detroit, and Jackson, Mississippi. But if these recent grants are any indication, Philadelphia groups may have an “in” with this food-focused funder. Then again, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf’s recent announcement about reopening the state’s solar energy program might have something to do with that as well.

So how does one connect with this grantmaker?

Well, you’re going to have to know someone who works at a Whole Foods store, because the application process starts with a team member completing an application in support of your community organization. Only if the foundation chooses that team member’s application will your nonprofit have the opportunity to apply for a grant. The grant highlighted here was on the low end of this funder’s giving, and others are awarded for up to $15,000 in this program.

Head back to the funders’ Community First Grant Program page in April 2017 to learn more about the next funding opportunity and how to apply for one of these grants in Philadelphia or elsewhere in the U.S. The foundation is run by a two-person staff with Meredith Smith as the executive director and Dr. Akua Woolbright as the senior healthy eating and wellness educator.