According to Cause IQ, there are over 1.8 million registered nonprofit organizations in the U.S., and with so many worthy causes to support, we are deeply grateful for the individuals, families, foundations, and corporations who recognize ReFED’s mission for their philanthropic investment. Virtually all of them share a commitment to achieving at least one of the many co-benefits of reducing food waste: reducing carbon emissions, saving water and soil resources, securing biodiversity, building better bottom lines for businesses across the food chain, and aiding in deployment of food to the families and communities that need it most.
In this first of a regular feature, we are highlighting the stories and perspectives of some of the donors who choose to make food waste their cause.
The Posner Foundation of Pittsburgh is one of the leading families that have identified food waste in their philanthropic portfolio. Founded in 1963, the Foundation has taken some great strides in recent years. In 2019, it hired its first staff member – Executive Director Anne Marie Toccket – created a mission statement, and launched formal priority areas, most notably the environment and its direct connection to food waste.
Ida Posner, a Strategic Advisor to the Foundation, is also the great granddaughter of the Foundation’s co-founder. She is helping the Foundation frame its current work and is a strong advocate for addressing food waste as a critical issue. “I fundamentally believe that reducing food waste is a solvable problem that everyone can contribute to,” said Posner. “When we are looking for ways we can positively impact our world, [food waste] gives people something they can contribute to in really direct ways ― you can do something at your next meal!”
With so many big challenges in the world today, the Posner Foundation of Pittsburgh looks for systemic approaches and solutions-driven organizations to support. They were happy to find a partner in ReFED when they started thinking about food waste.
“We want to be smart with where we invest our money. There are a lot of important issues to work on, but it seems almost irresponsible to not take advantage of an opportunity that offers so many co-benefits,” said Posner. “Food waste is a great area because there are a lot of high-leverage opportunities. It’s not a political issue―reducing wasted food just makes sense.”
Toccket also appreciates having an expert to turn to. “It’s so helpful to have a clear leader in the space putting out solutions and road maps,” she said. “Having the thought partner [in ReFED] in this space is so important. You know you are in good company in thinking through the solutions; there are a million issues out there, but not every sticky issue has a team that can make directing change easier.”
Change is what the food system needs, and the environment is more ripe for attending to this issue as a result of issues made evident during the pandemic. “COVID led a lot of us to think about what it means for food to be grown, processed and moved to your plate―what are the personal and environmental impacts of that?” said Posner. “People started to gain insights into our food systems as never before.”
Posner and Toccket also agree that the investment in this issue through the blended capital model that ReFED advocates for makes good sense because of the complexities of the food system. “Catalytic capital is the sweet spot; philanthropy alone can’t get us there,” said Posner, adding, “Food waste is an ideal space for PRIs (Program Related Investments), and applying risk-tolerant capital to new solutions is critical if we really want to scale our impact.”
Having access to ReFED’s extensive data can be a critical aid to philanthropists and investors. “We have the tools and a literal road map to figure out what we should be doing,” concluded Posner, “so let’s get to work.”
**To learn more about supporting ReFED's work to advance food waste solutions, please contact Shawn Shepherd.**