What's Behind the Vela Foundation’s Nutrition Grantmaking?

The small yet focused Vela Foundation just awarded 21 grants in eastern Massachusetts to improve health conditions through targeted nutrition programs. For a foundation that reported under $2 million in assets just a few years ago, this approach seems to be Vela’s answer to pro-active health funding in the region.

Related: Vela Foundation: Boston Grants

The recent round of Vela awards totaled $225,750, and most grants ranged between $5,000 and $15,000 each. Vela grantees have been grassroots organizations and well-established institutions in various communities throughout Boston,  Dorchester, Roxbury, Everett, Westport, Somerset, Fall River and Swansea. This is a foundation that recognizes the seriousness of the obesity, diabetes and heart disease crisis and chooses to fund prevention strategies over existing treatment efforts.

One recent grantee, Partners for a Healthier Community, is a partnership between the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and Fall River, Somerset, Swansea and Westport residents that brings together everyone from business owners to clergy members and school leaders. Several of Vela's recent grants fund programs that promote healthy cooking instruction for children and their parents in an effort to take nutrition beyond the school cafeteria and into the home. Nutrition literacy courses, access to fresh produce, and “prescriptions” for physical activity are also top priorities for Vela.

To make limited funds go that extra mile, the Vela Foundation occasionally awards matching grants, such as the recent $15,000 gift to A Better Tomorrow Services, a food pantry that serves residents of Everett, Revere and the surrounding communities.

“Improved nutrition results in decreased illness and significant reduction of medical costs for the state of Massachusetts. But more importantly, it improves overall quality of life. The Vela Foundation is pleased to support the nonprofit organizations whose programs are devoted to fostering better lives through healthier habits, ” said Bernadette Rehnert, Founding Trustee of the Vela Foundation.

While some major funders in the Boston area are focused on fixing complicated primary care access issues, global health worker training, and treatment responses, Vela is getting back to basics. Good health relies upon adequate nutrition and physical exercise, and without this type of funding, we’re only perpetuating the nation’s health crisis into the future. So even when the dollar amounts pale in comparison to say, Barr Foundation and Boston Foundation grants, the Vela Foundation’s approach is unique in aiming to prevent disease before it starts.

The next Vela Foundation grant application deadline is September 15 and the following one is April 15. Check out the foundation’s website for more information.