HANNAH NYHART, BRIGID MANIATES, MAIRA KHWAJA and MARA HENEGHAN
As told by Hannah, Brigid, Maira and Mara.
Build used their Big Idea Grant to grow their Market Box program, providing nutritious food for their neighbors, and creating resources to help others start similar programs.
WE TOOK THE BIG IDEA GRANT SOMEWHERE NEW
Our Big Idea grant is different than other grantees. Our project, Market Box, is a collaboration of Build Coffee, the people in our building, Experimental Station (a hive of small business, culture and education, with a kick-ass farmers’ market outside) and local farmers.
WHAT’S MARKET BOX?
Market Box delivers a big bag of groceries to 400+ families across the South Side of Chicago every month, with food sourced from Midwestern farms. We've done this since the start of the pandemic and we don’t want to stop! We know it’s helping hungry people in our community.
“Community really means just taking care of each other.”
— Hannah Nyhart
THE GRANT WAS KEY
Oatly’s funding was our first major grant for this project, and it gave us room to catch our breath from the frenetic monthly fundraising cycle of gathering small donations and let us hire a couple part-time coordinators for the project and plan long term.
SUSTAINABILITY IS ABOUT MORE THAN CLIMATE
Market Box represents a different idea of sustainability. We support local farms, and help them be sustainable by providing them with regular financial support. And sourcing from local farms means less fuel is consumed in getting food to people. In the future, local food ecosystems will be needed more and more. As we try to make Market Box work year-round, we push further out into the supply chain and look for partners focused on sustainability. It’s the same way with coffee. You find partners that share your ethic and then you trust them.
FAILURE IS FREEDOM
Failure should be embraced as a way of refining a process. We ran a coffee shop, so this was all new to us. In getting Market Box under way, there are always hiccups like,“We don’t have enough bags” or “The produce has gone bad,” but being able to think of it as a constant experiment where failure and change are allowed is really helpful for our ethos. We’ve learned to be open to plan B, and realize that plan B can sometimes be a better decision.
COMMUNITY BUILDS COMMUNITY
A lot of our Build Coffee regulars are also Market Box volunteers. Our goal is to have more overlap between the people who receive Market Box and the people volunteering and making it run.
Hannah, Brigid, Maira and Mara’s 5 ways to successfully start a neighborhood / grassroots food distribution:
PULL TOGETHER YOUR PLAN.
What's your capacity? Who's on your team? Where are your strengths? Where do you need support? How will you reach overlapping categories of donors, volunteers and people who need food?
SET UP YOUR FOOD SOURCE.
Is there a farm in your community that's already doing regular Community Supported Agriculture deliveries? Could you get produce and essentials from an existing vendor?
FUNDRAISE, OF COURSE.
A platform such as Open Collective gives your community a visible goal, and being transparent about your cost per bag of food means people have a sense of their impact.
GET THE WORD OUT!
We posted volunteer opportunities, donation calls and a recipient form all together. By combining the messaging, people could get in wherever they fit in.
JUMP IN AND ADJUST AS YOU GO.
Assume you need more hands than you think you will, and that things might be a little chaotic to start. Get feedback from everybody involved.
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Seriously, they approved this part. Just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can connect you with these amazing entrepreneurs so you can ask all about how to get going on similar sustainable projects of your own. Because sustainability info should be free and shareable for all, of course!