June 30, 2021

Cameron Foundation approves $853,769 in June cycle grants, many focused on basic needs and underscoring food insecurity

The Cameron Foundation has approved $853,769 in new funding as a result of its June responsive grant cycle. The awards were directed to 22 nonprofit organizations and one local government.

To complement the responsive grants program, the Foundation also offers capacity-building resources for nonprofits and leads several proactive funding initiatives. Cameron’s Board Chair, J. Tolleison Morriss, VI, explained, “The Foundation is better able to serve the community by using this multi-pronged, philanthropic strategy. The responsive grant program provides valuable input from groups that seek funding based on current community needs.” He added, “The process enables us to ‘respond’ to these priorities.”

Among the grants this cycle, $266,430, or 31% of awards, were directed to human services programs. The balance of funds were divided across multiple funding interests, including arts and culture; community and economic development; education; healthcare; and, historic preservation and conservation.

Four of the June grants specifically were focused on addressing food insecurity. Cameron’s Grants Committee Chair, Jeff Geisz, noted, “It is unusual for us to make so many grants to organizations working on different aspects of the same issue.” Geisz further explained, “The fact that we reviewed so many requests in human services this time appears, to some extent, to be a reflection of the long-term impact that the pandemic has had on nonprofit safety nets serving this region.” The four awards directed to organizations specifically working in the food system are Feed More ($60,000); Hopewell Food Pantry ($25,000); Town of Waverly in partnership with Mission Ministries ($33,900); and, River Street Education, Inc. ($11,000), dba River Street Market.

“In terms of food insecurity, Cameron staff has noted varying degrees of need across our service area,” said Cameron President J. Todd Graham. Cameron has invested over $3.5 million in responsive grants to address food insecurity and food access since the Foundation began grantmaking in 2004.

According to Feeding America’s 2020 Map the Meal Gap study, food security has improved since the Great Recession of 2008, but food insecurity rates in Petersburg, Hopewell and Sussex remain consistently higher than both the state and national rates. Petersburg also had the highest food insecurity rate in Virginia in 2018 (the most recent data available). Graham added, “Those rates emphasize the need to further evaluate and examine best practices for the Foundation’s work. In addition, the number of people experiencing food insecurity has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic – at a time when emergency food assistance organizations generally have witnessed decreases in food donations and a decrease in volunteers because of the pandemic.”

Given the effect of food insecurity on health outcomes, the high rates of food insecurity in the region, and the impact of the COVID-19 public health crisis, Cameron has initiated an evaluation of food security in the service area. “The Foundation is looking for long-term, systemic, impactful strategies that will ultimately improve the food security and food access landscape in localities across this service area,” Graham said. Findings and recommendations resulting from the study are expected to be considered by Cameron’s Board of Directors in early 2022.

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