White Pony Express (WPE) of Contra Costa County, California is rescuing food and diverting it to residents in need. With additional funding from ReFED’s COVID-19 Food Waste Solutions Fund, they are working to expand their current operations and create new initiatives.
Founded in 2013 by Dr. Carol Weyland Conner, WPE has quickly evolved and now has over 70 agencies in Contra Costa County. Volunteers collect surplus food that would otherwise be thrown out from restaurants, farmers, and other food suppliers. They then redirect the food to individuals and organizations in need.
During COVID-19, WPE received a grant from ReFED, an organization that works to find creative solutions to food waste. The ReFED COVID-19 Food Waste Solutions Fund is assisting nonprofits that are working to provide food assistance by diverting food waste during the pandemic.
Erica Brooks, Chief Growth Officer for WPE, says that ReFED is not only offering funding, they are also providing community.
“[ReFED has] created a cohort where we can share best practices and has created a support system [for the] food rescue sector,” Brooks tells Food Tank.
When the COVID-19 pandemic started, WPE saw both an increase in need for food assistance and an increase in surplus food. At the same time, many of their partner agencies, including group homes and community kitchens shut down.
This led the WPE team to create new initiatives, including drive-thru food pantries. They also began working with new partners at the local and national levels to deliver food directly to families and individuals. One of these new programs is the USDA Farmers to Families food box initiative, which has provided over 500,000 pounds of fresh food to families in need.
While working with partner organizations has always been important for non-profits like WPE, the pandemic has shown that flexibility and collaboration are crucial to providing food aid, says Brooks.
“Collaboration is no longer an ideal for us — it is a huge necessity. Because when you have a situation like COVID, it’s not, ‘Oh, what is [another organization] doing? Should we do this with them?’ It’s ‘Are we serving everybody?’”
Photo Courtesy of White Pony Express