A new non-profit has formed in Macomb to continue the food delivery programs that started last year during the pandemic. Good Food Collaborative (GFC) consists almost entirely of volunteers. The only paid employee is Executive Director John Curtis.
He feels it's important to have a delivery program in place to make sure quality food gets to everyone in need.
“A lot of the people that we deliver to are homebound. They’re in a wheelchair, they can only use a walker, they are very elderly, (or) they have a lot of kids at home and can’t get out,” Curtis said.
“We made a point of making sure that we got basics to people, like milk, eggs, (and) we always include frozen meat. The kinds of things that people need to make a real meal. That’s something that we intend to continue.”
He said donations should be sent to First Presbyterian Church, 400 East Carroll Street in Macomb. He said the church is acting as GFC’s fiscal agent while the organization waits to receive non-profit status from the federal government.
Curtis said the past year has taught him the importance of working with different people in the community.
“Working with churches, small businesses, unions, (and) civic organizations. I really appreciated how much the community stood up and helped make our programming possible since the beginning of the pandemic,” he said.
“Those same people are standing up and helping us continue these programs under a new title and under a new organization. We’re really excited about what’s coming down the road.”
He said Peace Corps fellows and members of AmeriCorps and Vista are also helping make GFC’s work possible.
Curtis said GFC is looking forward this year to expanding the Kids Cook! program and the Victory Gardens that volunteers started last summer.
A local chef will lead Kids Cook!, which is an online class that teaches basic kitchen skills to children 9 to 12 years old and their families. GFC’s website said the families will learn to cook with “inexpensive, whole foods.”
Curtis said, “If they’re in McDonough County we will supply the cooking ingredients, recipe cards, and any cooking tools that they might need.”
He said coaches will reach out to the families to make sure they’re not having any problems with the recipes.
Curtis said Victory Gardens can be found at First Presbyterian Church, Project Insight, and several other locations around Macomb. There will also be a Victory Garden this year in Bushnell.
He said he was surprised by the popularity of the gardens last year.
Genesis Garden & Food Delivery
Curtis previously led Genesis Garden. He said that group’s board voted in April to discontinue food programs. “Why did they choose the middle of April to discontinue the food programs just as we were ramping up to get ready to run all of our summer programs?” he asked. “I can’t really say.”
He said the board also voted to cut ties with him in May. Curtis said he and others then formed Good Food Collaborative.
He said most of the money raised in the last year for food programs remained with Genesis Garden.
“The Genesis Garden board has every legal right to use that money any way they want, and at this point we’re not expecting any more,” Curtis said.
“And I want to be clear, the Genesis Garden board did give a small percentage of that money to the new program to get us started, so we’ve got two or three months of operating (funds) to get off the ground.”
Genesis Garden Response
TSPR contacted Genesis Garden Board President Melissa Calhoun to inquire about the decision to discontinue food programs. We also asked about the donated money.
In an email she responded:
"Discontinue" is a mischaracterization - Genesis Garden's board chose to launch programs so they would continue.
While a crisis-focused response like charity food distribution is necessary and beneficial, the approach doesn’t impact chronic need or transform communities. And while Genesis Garden pivoted into crisis response mode for the pandemic, transactional crisis response is not Genesis Garden’s core mission or vision. Transformational, sustainable community development is.
As vaccines were on the horizon and then rolled out, we began planning Genesis Garden’s post-COVID pivot and trajectory, our (now former) executive director, Mr Curtis, proposed to the Genesis Garden board that we transfer Genesis Garden food programs to a new organization under his leadership.
Sharing food around a table (Soup & More community meal) is a fundamental part of Genesis Garden’s identity. A few days after offering "all" food programs, Genesis Garden’s board chose to offer those GG food programs that were outside the scope of our mission, along with programs closely intertwined with Mr Curtis' personal business and long-time vocation. GG has no desire to see those programs go away, we just made the courageous (and sometimes scary) decision to re-align Genesis Garden's action with Genesis Garden's mission to address underlying causes while Loaves & Fishes, WIRC, Salvation Army, CARE, Mr. Curtis and others fulfill their missions in crisis response.
The program transfers are ongoing, and certain aspects remain in transition. Genesis Garden has turned over equipment and staff, and GG continues to pay various expenses of these programs. It is misleading to claim that money is 'staying with Genesis Garden' while Genesis Garden continues to pay program expenses and fulfills due diligence necessary to transfer grants, etc.
We want to be clear that GG did not discontinue, or abandon, or discard these programs. Genesis Garden could easily have transformed them to better align with our mission, or identified other organizations to continue them. We offered Mr Curtis first opportunity to continue programs under his new organization, GFC, because he proposed that.
Tri States Public Radio produced this story. TSPR relies on financial support from our readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.