The PB&J Fund was created in the belief that a healthy diet should be easily accessible to all kids, just like the most famous and basic childhood food of peanut butter and jelly.
The PB&J Fund was founded in 2008 by long-time Charlottesville residents Mike and Ellen Geismar. As Mike and Ellen were growing their family and business, they learned about the prevalence of food insecurity in Charlottesville and committed themselves to ensuring that all children in our community have reliable access to healthy food. That same year they created The MLG Foundation to both provide grants to area nonprofits whose work focuses on children and families, education, health, hunger and nutrition and to provide oversight and funding to the PB&J Fund.
Emily Wampler was hired as the inaugural Executive Director of both the MLG Foundation and the PB&J Fund. As the result of many community conversations focused on learning about the landscape of organizations and programs focused on food or children, the PB&J Fund piloted and still uses today a partnership model, collaborating with area nonprofits that support youth and families through direct-service programs, to deliver educational and fun cooking classes while also distributing food bags over the winter holidays.
Initial efforts were focused on piloting a cooking class with the Boys & Girls Club and a summertime lunch program with ReadyKids in the Westhaven community, while also partnering with Charlottesville City Schools to ensure that students participating in the Free & Reduced Lunch program had access to nutritious food during the winter holiday period.
From 2009 through 2013, these pilot programs grew slowly but steadily in scope and impact, with initial programmatic steps helping the PB&J Fund realize that increasing staff capacity and providing fixed facilities to create a teaching kitchen would expand reach and allow for more programmatic opportunities with partners and greater impact on youth and families struggling with access to affordable, healthy food.
Due to the generosity of the Geismar family and the MLG Foundation, in 2013 PB&J moved into its current home in downtown Charlottesville, which includes administrative offices and two commercial kitchen spaces. This transition allowed for culinary and nutritional programming to become a central component of our work with youth and families. PB&J now provides curriculum-based cooking classes and field trips to hundreds of children each year, emphasizing kitchen safety while teaching the components and benefits of a healthy diet. At the same time, PB&J works with families to reinforce the social, emotional and physical benefits of cooking and eating as a family.
Today PB&J continues to participate in food distribution through our Holiday Giving program, which has grown significantly and now mobilizes over 100 volunteers to pack and distribute more than 650 bags, including shelf stable products, meal starters, recipes and spice packets, to youth and families that have unreliable access to affordable and healthy food. We also participate in the Charlottesville Food Justice Network and proudly partner with area nonprofits (e.g. Big Brothers Big Sisters, Boys & Girls Club, Charlottesville Parks & Rec, City of Promise, City Schoolyard Garden, Local Food Hub, ReadyKids, etc.) to create safe, fun and meaningful learning experiences for area youth and families.