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Collective Effort Benefits Nonprofits

Strategic aid addresses shift to fresh foods

Executive Director Sue Villilo knows that for some individuals, the meal they receive at Faith Mission’s community soup kitchen is the only food they’ll eat that day. So, she makes sure to work with staff to provide well-balanced, nutritious meals. However, the food system’s recent shift to fresh food has made it challenging to store the fruit and vegetables until she has enough to feed her large clientele.

“Because of the volume of people we serve, we would rarely get enough of one food to do one serving,” Sue explained. “Now that we have the sealer, we can seal it, store it, and when we have enough, we can serve an entire meal with fresh food, which was hard before.”

The Columbus Foundation is deeply committed to identifying and strategically responding to community needs. In 2003, the Foundation introduced Critical Need Alerts (CNA)—targeted communications to donors asking them to invest in these pressing needs.

Since then, more than $5.6 million has been raised, with the majority of CNAs further boosted by grants approved by The Columbus Foundation’s Governing Committee and Supporting Foundations to provide matching dollars. From homelessness to the arts, these opportunities were developed with one goal in mind—to strengthen and improve our community. 

In November 2012, the Foundation launched the Critical Need Alert for Hunger in response to the national and local food bank systems’ shift from canned goods to fresh foods. Many local food pantries and soup kitchens faced an immediate challenge of storing these perishable items with their current resources. The CNA provided funding to 10 organizations vital to the community, enabling them to make capital purchases like freezers, vacuum packaging machines, and shelving units to better equip them for the change.

This support was significant to Kathy Kelly-Long, food pantry manager for the Broad Street Food Pantry, multiplying the amount of food she can store—and the clients she can serve as a result. The choice pantry on the Near East Side served more than 23,000 clients in 2012 and saw more than a 100 percent increase in fresh foods served that year—90,000 pounds compared to 42,000 pounds in 2011.

In partnership with the Foundation’s Community Research and Grants Management department, each organization set a goal it hoped to achieve through the effort to purchase needed items. Foundation donors had the option to support individual organizations or all 10 nonprofits through the Critical Need Alert for Hunger Fund, which was distributed across all organizations. Thanks to an extraordinary response, more than $325,000 was raised, surpassing the overall goal of $268,102 by nearly $57,000. 

“With the funds, the Broad Street Food Pantry was able to purchase an 8'x14' built-in cooler/freezer unit that almost doubles our cold storage capacity. With this extra space, we can handle larger volumes of fresh produce and dairy, giving our clients healthier options. This new equipment will help us meet the increased demand and increase the nutritional value of the food we serve,” Kathy said.


Critical Need Alerts (CNAs) were created for donors and community members who want to participate in a shared investment opportunity and partner with the Foundation to support our community’s greatest needs and best opportunities to meet those needs.

Critical Need Alerts

Created for donors and community members to participate in a shared investment opportunity with the Foundation to support our community’s greatest needs.