Grace Klein Community

In 2022, thousands and thousands of people from around the world traveled to Birmingham for The World Games. And in the center of it all was Grace Klein Community leading the food rescue program for the Sustainability Team. “We were able to rescue 13,000 meals from the different vendors that were set up at the locations, and, in addition to that, we were able to deliver 22,000 meals from Mercy Chefs, who were making food and giving it to the players, the volunteers, and the first responders,” says Natalie King, director of development for Grace Klein Community.

But that’s not all. Founder Jenny Waltman and her team noticed gaps where the athletes or volunteers were not using the available meals. “The cool thing is we were able to save food and then reallocate it to the food insecure,” she says. “We were actually tightening the numbers for Mercy Chefs so they were making less overage food. We were managing the waste factor, because we were all working together.”

This monumental endeavor was made possible in part by a $25,000 grant from the Community Foundation. “The only reason we could do all of that was because of the Community Foundation’s investment,” says Waltman.

With the grant funds, Grace Klein Community was able to pay for transportation and other logistics, organize and supply volunteers, provide educational materials regarding food waste, and create a food rescue app. “The World Games was a new opportunity for our city, and we were all learning as we went along,” says Waltman. She says that right before the games were about to start, they realized that there wasn’t a good system for how the food was going to be moved out to the volunteers, athletes, and first responders. That’s when they realized that they could use the food rescue app that the Community Foundation had funded to not only be able to rescue food during the games but organize distribution in real time.

“I greatly appreciate the Community Foundation taking the risk with us because we were a crucial player in the smooth process of having people fed during the games,” says Waltman. “And I think that if we hadn’t been able to participate, it would have been very different.”

In addition to the app, the Community Foundation grant helped purchase a refrigerator and freezer to ensure safe handling of the food in accordance with the FDA guidelines, provide volunteer t-shirts and lanyards to identify them according to safety protocols, and prevent the needless waste of nearly 40,000 pounds of food, which has an even more far-reaching impact.

“That saved 63.52 tons of CO2 equivalent from being produced,” says King. “And if we add this to our other food rescues, in 2022 specifically, we’ve positively impacted the environment by averting over 1500 tons of CO2 equivalent from being produced. That’s equal to 328 passenger vehicles being driven for one year.”

And while The World Games are now over, the app is still active and a regular part of the work of Grace Klein Community helping food rescue volunteers find opportunities to serve near them and interact with other volunteers. “It’s provided more opportunity for people to get out of their house and do something for the greater good in the community,” King says.

Waltman and King say working with the Community Foundation has only strengthened their organization and its service to Greater Birmingham because of its oversight and review process. “The Community Foundation always brings different perspectives because their committee members are very diverse and their questions are all over the place,” says Waltman. “I like that because it helps us think outside the box.”

Waltman continues that she also looks outside her own organization to follow other organizations that receive funding as well. “I like to see how they’re making a positive impact in the community because we appreciate what they’re doing for Grace Klein Community, and we know that that love continues all over the city.”

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