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How We Worked Toward a Better Food Future in 2021

December 20th, 2021

The year 2021 was a moment for Thrive Market to redouble our efforts to ensure all people have access to healthy food.

Even as COVID cases have fallen and vaccines and treatments show promise, deep societal inequities remain. Food insecurity rates increased significantly during the course of the pandemic, with BIPOC and Latinx communities, single mothers, and families in rural areas disproportionately affected. Feeding America reports that currently, more than 38 million Americans—including 12 million children—are food insecure. 

We’re on the road to $10 million in healthy groceries, and we’re not making the journey alone. Our partnerships with organizations like Baby2Baby, FoodCorps, and Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles, as well as our member community, have helped us maximize our impact.

Our 2021 Impact At a Glance

With the help of our one-million-member community, we made headway in the fight for food equality in 2021. Milestones we reached this year include:

  • $5.9 million in healthy groceries raised for Food Equality Now thanks to member donations at checkout
  • More than 220,000 Thrive Gives memberships granted to individuals and families in need
  • Healthy groceries and education for 27,000+ families

Through our ongoing partnership with Baby2Baby, an organization dedicated to providing children living in poverty with basic necessities, we helped 5,900 families when they needed it most in 2021. We donated healthy groceries and essentials to 1,000 families in Texas impacted by unprecedented cold weather; 1,600 students at underserved schools in New York City; and 2,550 families in Los Angeles. When Hurricane Ida hit the Gulf in August, we worked with Baby2Baby to get 750 boxes of food, diapers, and drinking water to families in Louisiana. Thrive Market also provided healthy snacks and other essentials to the organization’s Student2Student back-to-school drive and Family2Family holiday gift drive. 

Through a new alliance with Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles, we had the privilege of helping welcome more than 60 local families into their new homes by stocking their pantries with healthy groceries.

Our partnership with FoodCorps has enabled us to offer 10,000 families and children access to healthy groceries through free Thrive Market memberships, fund food education for 8,000 children, and advocate for four key legislative provisions that would strengthen child nutrition laws nationwide.  

Food Equality in Action: Education and Advocacy with FoodCorps

Who better to describe FoodCorps’ essential work than one of their own? 

Sharde McClure loves being a FoodCorps service member for many reasons, but the organization’s commitment to raising awareness about issues facing communities like hers—Washington County in the Mississippi Delta—ranks high among them. “I have a passion for advocacy,” she told us. “FoodCorps helps get the stories out about the Delta. That’s what I love.”

At elementary and middle schools in Washington County, FoodCorps service members maintain three gardens and teach weekly garden classes to 60 fifth graders. Alongside their lessons in the classroom, kids literally get their hands dirty planting seeds, harvesting food, and composting with the guidance of FoodCorps instructors like McClure. 

FoodCorps’ mission of connecting kids with fresh, healthy food in school is especially important in rural places like the Mississippi Delta, where many communities lack convenient access to stores that sell healthy groceries. That being said, many of McClure’s students are familiar with growing food, since they have family members who farm or garden. But there’s still an element of discovery, since FoodCorps lessons often expose kids to new foods, like hibiscus and chard. “It’s an aha moment for them because a lot of the items we grow they’ve never eaten before,” McClure says.

The benefits of FoodCorps’ garden classes go beyond the novel delight of having your first taste of arugula that you grew yourself; remote learning means entire families benefit from the lessons. “When you’re on Zoom, you’re in somebody’s home,” McClure laughs. “You’re a family member at that point!” She explains that FoodCorps students often end up sharing what they learn with their families, which makes all the difference for busy parents trying to prepare healthy meals. “It’s not that parents don’t want to eat healthy or provide healthy meals for their children,” she says. “If you’ve never prepared a healthy meal using rainbow chard and asparagus, you don’t know how to make it taste good.” 

McClure recognized the same issue when she noticed how much cafeteria food was winding up in the garbage: while schools were following health and nutrition mandates from the state, local cafeteria workers lacked the training to prepare healthy dishes that kids would actually want to eat. “My daughters are hangry when I pick them up from school,” she recalls with a laugh. 

FoodCorps recognizes that systemic issues like this one prevent kids in many communities from getting the healthy food and education they need. This year, the organization worked to build support for Child Nutrition Reauthorization, a legislative process that updates child nutrition laws. Thrive Market partnered with FoodCorps to advocate for four crucial bills that govern food access and nutrition education in schools, including training and equipment upgrades for cafeterias.  

While FoodCorps service members like McClure are on the ground making a huge difference in the lives of children every day, the organization’s advocacy work is helping to solidify much-needed policy changes at the federal level. “The Build Back Better Act is a once-in-a-generation investment that includes many provisions that focus on child nutrition, like expanded access to school meals, and funding for critical elements, such as hands-on nutrition education and school kitchen equipment,” says Laura Hatch, Senior Director of Policy and Partnerships at FoodCorps. “Thrive Market’s advocacy and support for the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act helped keep these critical components at the forefront of the conversation.” 

To learn more about Thrive Gives and apply for a membership, click here. 

This article is related to: Thrive Gives

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Kirby StirlandKirby Stirland is a writer, editor, and New York transplant living in Los Angeles.

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