Food for Thought: The Latest Nutrition Grantmaking From Newman's Own


Paul Newman was a man ahead of his time. While everyone now grasps the idea of social enterprise businesses, Newman's Own was a novelty when it launched in the 1980s and started giving away its profits. It's since distributed over $475 million to nonprofits worldwide. Newman started Newman’s Own Foundation in 2005, three years before his death, to ensure that his philanthropic legacy would continue.

Among its activities, the foundation is deeply into the food and nutrition issues that have become so hot in recent years among funders. It's given $11.5 million to nutrition-based programs in underserved communities since 2014, making it a significant player in this space.  

More than 29 million Americans live in “food deserts,” areas in which the lack of access to healthy, affordable food such as fresh produce results in obesity, malnutrition, and other serious problems. And an estimated 42 million Americans are food insecure, meaning they can’t get a sufficient amount of affordable, nutritious food. This leads to adverse health issues such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

The latest news from Newman’s Own Foundation is a round of grants totaling $1.5 million for initiatives to increase access to fresh food and nutrition education across the country. A total of 37 organizations received money to support their nutrition-related programs including getting healthy food into urban bodegas, facilitating community gardens and teaching kids how to grow and prepare their own food. A key idea here is that local nonprofits in this space already know how to make the most out of a cash infusion.

"We made these grants based on two central values of Newman's Own Foundation — providing access to healthier foods for children and families, and respect for the nonprofit sector,” said Bob Forrester, president and CEO of Newman’s Own Foundation, in the grant announcement. “The people who work for healthier communities are committed and hardworking, and they know better than us how to address these issues.”

One recipient, the Food Project, received $50,000 to promote its food access initiatives in the Greater Boston area, and has the potential to earn another $10,000 in matching donations from November 22 to November 29, 2016. The American Indian Cancer Foundation will use the grant money to support its Healthy Eating for Strong Native Communities project, while the Pike Place Market Foundation has earmarked the grant for its Food Access Program, cooking classes, and other nutrition resources for the community.

Nutrition programs aren’t the only beneficiaries of Newman’s Own grants. The Foundation impacts communities with awards as diverse as natural disaster response/relief funding and a challenge grant to support the Westport Playhouse. When Inside Philanthropy spoke to Forrester last year, he talked about the foundation’s belief in the nonprofit sector as well as the people who work in it. That philosophy is evident in the funding choices of Newman’s Own.