Avangrid Foundation: A Northeast Grantmaker With an Interest in Food Insecurity

 photo: photka/shutterstock

 photo: photka/shutterstock

The Avangrid Foundation recently made a $100,000 grant to a Maine food bank. This funder previously supported the Connecticut Food Bank and has a strong preference for local causes in the Northeast, so this gift is not out of line with its previous giving. Avangrid's grantmaking generally focuses on cooperation and solidarity, arts and culture, and sustainability and biodiversity. It also provides scholarships for studies of energy and the environment, which is not surprising, given that it is the corporate giving arm of Avangrid, Inc., an energy and utility company based in Orange, Connecticut.

We know that food insecurity has deep roots in economic hardship. As we’ve previously reported, it can be approached philanthropically via backing emergency and stopgap services like food banks as well as upstream approaches that aim to improve economic opportunity and improve local food systems. Organic and sustainable farming methods are a related area of growing philanthropic interest. Multifaceted food-based undertakings like the establishment of community gardens, farmers markets and/or training kitchens can combine many of these approaches by increasing access to nutritious food while offering employment or job skill development in the food industry.

Numerous individual donors and local community foundations play a major role in fighting hunger. Two private foundations that are significant investors in this cause are the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Laura and John Arnold Foundation. Big corporate funders in the realm include the Caterpillar Foundation, ConAgra Foods Foundation, and Bank of America.

The Avangrid Foundation's spring 2018 grant to the Good Shepherd Food Bank was given in partnership with one of its parent company's subsidiaries, Central Maine Power. CMP employees and food bank employees joined in the groundbreaking of a new cold storage facility in Hampden, Maine.

“Our state is ranked seventh in the nation for food insecurity,” said Doug Herling, president and CEO of Central Maine Power, adding that many Mainers “are forced to choose between food or utilities,” and that “no one should have to make these types of choices.”

Maine also has the highest rate of food insecurity in New England, says Kristen Miale, president of the Good Shepherd Food Bank. She says the new refrigeration and distribution center “will have a transformative effect on increasing access to healthy food for the people we serve.”

The new facility will provide state-of-the-art cold storage for produce, fish, and other local products, enabling year-round distribution of perishable foods, “and provide vital access to healthy fruits and vegetables for the needy families in central, northern and eastern Maine.” The food bank plans to open the facility in the summer of 2019.

In 2016, about 12 percent of American households were food insecure. Currently, the Feeding America Network, the largest domestic hunger-relief organization in the U.S., which comprises more than 60,000 food banks, pantries and meal programs, says more than 46 million people use its services annually—closer to 14 percent of the U.S. population.