Our latest round of grants continues to prioritize California’s communities that have been disproportionately harmed by the COVID-19 pandemic, with a particular focus on addressing food insecurity and equitable access to quality health care.
May 5, 2021—The California Wellness Foundation today announced $6.9 million in grants to advance health equity in California by focusing on health disparities worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic and economic recession. Our multi-year and core operating support grants champion access to quality health care, economic and community well-being, and the voices, leadership, and power of people of color.
“The COVID-19 recession has pushed Black, Latino, Indigenous and immigrant communities to the edge. People are struggling to put food on their tables,” said Judy Belk, Cal Wellness president and CEO. “Economic security is a key determinant of health. How can families be well if they are worried they can’t afford to feed their loved ones or don't have access to nutritious foods?”
Addressing the Food Insecurity Crisis Exacerbated by the COVID-19 Recession
The pandemic and the economic fallout have created a food insecurity crisis in our nation and state. In the last week of March, some 18 million adults—9 percent of all adults in the country—reported that their household didn’t have enough to eat. Nationally, demand is up 60 percent at food banks. Meanwhile, our grantee Serving Seniors in San Diego has reported a 100 percent increase in the number of seniors requesting meal delivery.
Food banks and meal delivery programs that keep healthy food on people’s tables are struggling to keep up with the demand. To support our seniors, low-income community members and organizations that nourish them, Cal Wellness awarded eight grants totaling $775,000 to food banks and home meal delivery programs serving Alameda, Auburn, Fresno, Los Angeles, Madera, San Diego, San Francisco and Tulare counties. Our grantees are The Alameda County Community Food Bank, Inc., Latino Leadership Council, FOOD, Inc., Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, Serving Seniors, St. Barnabas Senior Center of Los Angeles, Fresno County Economic Opportunities Commission, and On Lok Day Services.
Reversing Years of Underinvestment
This quarter, we awarded $1.5 million in Program-Related Investments (PRIs). PRIs allow us to make low-cost capital available to charitable or social enterprises that align with our mission. They are part of our strategy to support the health, safety, and resilience of underserved communities. Our investments target communities of color, particularly those that have been disproportionately impacted by historic disinvestment, unhealthy environments and community violence.
PRIs support the foundation's commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion by addressing systemic barriers related to race and gender in the financial sector and to increase the flow of capital to traditionally undercapitalized investment managers and entrepreneurs.
We invested $500,000 in Vamos Ventures and $1 million in Inner City Advisors (ICA). Vamos Ventures is a diverse investment manager that promotes a more diverse venture capital ecosystem and wealth creation among underserved entrepreneurs of color, while ICA provides coaching, connections, and capital to Bay Area community-based entrepreneurs.
“PRIs are an attractive tool to supplement our grantmaking. They are an integrated part of our philanthropic strategy to advance our vision,” said Rochelle Witharana, Cal Wellness CFO. “In addition to these new investments, I’m pleased that our Board approved an increase to our PRI allocation – allowing us to scale up our portfolio to as much as $50 million over the next five years.”
Transforming Our Health Care System
In addition to COVID-19 rapid response grants, we continued to provide grants in our four Advancing Wellness portfolios: Community Well-Being, Equity in Access, Economic Security and Dignity and Leading for Power and Change. We awarded seven grants totaling $1.9 million to expand access to health care and to strengthen our health care safety net.
Four grants totaling $850,000 went to support community health centers and community clinics, which are facing major funding challenges. Community health centers and community clinics like our grantees Alliance Health Clinic, McCloud Healthcare Clinic, Todos Para La Salud, and Community Health Initiative of Orange County provide health care to the most vulnerable populations in California: people of color, poor, undocumented, and the uninsured. They also offer outreach and enrollment support for anyone seeking health coverage.
We continued to support access to oral health care services by supporting organizations like the Assistance League of Pomona Valley and Community Catalyst, Inc., which provide oral health care services to low income adults, seniors, Tribal and other underserved communities. We also supported educational institutions that provide high-quality medical education to diverse students. Two grants totaling $950,000 to the UC Riverside School of Medicine and the Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science exemplify our long-term investment in a strong health care safety net. The grants will help build a new generation of diverse health care workers by enabling underrepresented minority students to pursue careers in health professions.
“Our hope is that these funding commitments during this first quarter of 2021 will help mitigate some of the financial blows that California nonprofits have weathered over the past year,” said Fatima Angeles, Cal Wellness vice president of programs. “A secure safety net of nonprofit service providers will be critically important when California emerges from the pandemic.”
About The California Wellness Foundation
The California Wellness Foundation’s mission is to protect and improve the health and wellness of the people of California by increasing access to health care, quality education, good jobs, healthy environments and safe neighborhoods. Since its founding in 1992, Cal Wellness has awarded more than $1 billion in charitable contributions and 9,200 grants.