Combatting the dual pandemics of COVID-19 and inequality
15 Jul 2020
When Everytable CEO Sam Polk realized the toll the COVID-19 pandemic would take on Los Angeles' low-income communities, he tweeted out a heartfelt message: “Dear LA. @foreverytable is here to help. 10k, 20k, 30k meals a day. Whatever you need. Wherever. Just give us a call."
As the health crisis shut down the city, Everytable—which provides healthy, affordable meals in Los Angeles' food deserts—shifted to deliveries and made its meals free for anyone who could not afford them. Since then the social enterprise, which provided 713,000 meals in 2019, has doled out more than 1.5 million meals in Compton and South L.A., including to the homeless, the recently unemployed, and parents struggling to feed their children.
Everytable is one of 22 portfolio companies backed by Acumen America, part of the nonprofit global venture fund Acumen, which invests in early-stage enterprises focused on tackling poverty and inequality in the United States. To help Everytable sustain its work as the pandemic continues, Acumen America is awarding it a grant from its recently-announced COVID-19 Emergency Fund.
The $2 million emergency fund is being raised to help Acumen America's portfolio companies respond quickly and deftly to the crisis. Barclays, a founding partner of Acumen America, has committed $500,000 to the fund plus an additional $500,000 in matching funding.
“Right when the crisis hit, we saw the impacts on the communities that our entrepreneurs work with," said Catherine Casey Nanda, director of Acumen America.
Both her team and the entrepreneurs backed by Acumen America understood the importance of acting fast to meet the urgent needs of under-resourced communities.
These grants are supporting projects that protect frontline workers or provide immediate relief into the communities that our companies serve.
Catherine Casey Nanda, Director, Acumen America
Launched in 2016, Acumen America's portfolio focuses on health, financial inclusion, and workforce development. The emergency grants have been distributed across 11 of its 22 social enterprises so far—including to Newark, New Jersey-based MindRight Health, which provides culturally responsive mental health coaching over text message to low-income youth and young adults of color. MindRight has seen a 20% increase in use since the start of the crisis.
Another grant recipient is Fresno, California-based Bitwise, which equips disadvantaged job seekers in distressed cities with technology skills. It also creates jobs via company incubation and software consulting. During the pandemic, Bitwise launched a platform to connect displaced workers to training opportunities, job openings, and essential services in 10 states and the District of Columbia.
“The US is facing a generational crisis with the dual pandemics of COVID-19 and the crisis around systemic racism," said Nanda. “Entrepreneurs can be responsive to the needs they see in their community by coming up with new innovations that can complement efforts made by government, corporates and nonprofits.”
Barclays has a longstanding relationship with Acumen America. It is the anchor partner of the Workforce Development fund, which it has supported with two grants since its inception in 2016. It has also supported Acumen's global work for nearly a decade.
“Barclays has shown real leadership around how corporations can play a role in putting people and communities first," said Nanda. “It's really in partnerships like this that we're going to bring our communities toward greater inclusivity."
For Mark Thain, Director, Citizenship at Barclays, the key differentiator between the interventions Acumen America supports and a traditional non-profit approach is that they are all led by entrepreneurs with business models.
We believe in the positive role that business has to play in society. Acumen America’s portfolio companies demonstrate this by operating at the intersection of impact, innovation and business.
Mark Thain, Director, Citizenship
To learn more about Acumen America or donate to its America Emergency Fund, please visit acumen.org.