The Future of PB&J Fund
Started almost 14 years ago, The PB&J Fund (PB&J) was created to address the simple but important question of: What can be done to address access to nutritious food for kids in Charlottesville when they are not receiving school lunches? Born from countless community conversations about where the most pressing gaps at the time were, we piloted programs and grew over the years through a model of partnering with existing organizations to provide both food and nutrition education to kids and families. As we grew and began providing more programs, the trustees of the MLG Foundation decided to fully fund PB&J and support the organization’s growth. In order for this commitment to take place, PB&J formally moved under the umbrella of the parent family foundation. To date PB&J has provided more than 2,000 cooking classes with nearly 22,000 participant interactions, and we’ve handed out 5,621 Holiday Giving bags to families in Charlottesville all in collaboration with our incredible partners.
After much reflection and community engagement, The PB&J Fund has decided to transition its organization from providing direct programming to a donor advised grant making fund led by a community-based committee at The Charlottesville Area Community Foundation starting in the Fall of 2023. We feel it is important to share how this decision was reached and what it means moving forward.
In 2017, a violent white supremacist rally brought the realities of systemic racism directly to the Kitchen’s doorstep and we began our commitment to anti-racism work. Years later, in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis and the suspension of traditional programming, like many organizations, we found ourselves in the midst of an unprecedented pause and pivot as we took a new approach to ensure Charlottesville youth and families had access to food over the weekends. During the pandemic we provided more than 400 families with 13,573 bags of food directly to their homes through the commitment of more than 250 volunteers. This pivot enabled us to work more closely with community members by providing direct services and started us on a journey to examine our purpose and focus.
In early 2021, we began a planning and discernment process to answer a new question: How can PB&J become an equitable organization? We engaged The Spark Mill to lead this work along with an advisory team of seven community members. During that process we looked at a scan of the regional landscape around food access programs and engaged over 40 community members and nonprofit leaders in interviews, focus groups, and brainstorming sessions. The challenges and limitations of the structure remaining a company owned by a private family foundation swiftly came to light.
Through this process, we heard time and again that centering the work and decision making in the communities served is the best and most equitable way to serve our community. With this community feedback, PB&J and the MLG Foundation trustees decided that the best path towards this goal was to transition into a donor advised fund within the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation. The new PB&J Fund will have a Community Advisory Group tasked with making funding decisions and, like the inspiration for PB &J from the beginning, will be focused around food access for children and families in the Charlottesville-Albemarle region. If you are interested in joining this Community Advisory Group, we ask you to complete this short form.
PB&J will continue to operate through Summer 2022. Beginning in 2023, The PB&J Fund will transition to the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation. PB&J and MLG feel incredibly fortunate that Charlottesville has a thriving and trusted community foundation poised to make this transition to carry out PB&J’s long standing mission with the community into its next evolution. One of the greatest strengths of PB&J’s unique structure has always been that it allows the organization to evolve and adapt to needs of partners and families swiftly. This evolution is no different.
It’s of the utmost importance to recognize PB&J’s team and partners for these valuable contributions and those not listed. Particularly team members Amy Curtis and Tracey Roberts, for their commitment and hard work over the years. We are forever grateful to them and all of the partners who we had the privilege of working alongside of us over the past 14 years and to all of those community members who gave their time and thoughtful feedback during these last 12 months.
We are excited to see what the community will do with this fund and are filled with hope as we wait to see how organizations around the region will think creatively about how they want to solve the problem of food access. While this process is certainly emotional, we are incredibly grateful for all of the smiles that filled our kitchen for the last nine years. If you have any questions about the process we engaged in or the decisions reached, please do not hesitate to contact Alex London-Gross at firstname.lastname@example.org or Emily Wampler at email@example.com.
Our very best,
Alex London-Gross – Executive Director, The PB&J Fund
Emily Wampler – Executive Director, The MLG Foundation