Innovation Springs from Necessity

“We're a small organization and adapting to the delivery model has been incredibly positive during COVID-19.”

How the crisis forced one agency to make changes for the better.

For 32 million Americans with food allergies, two million of which have celiac disease, COVID-19 has brought on an entirely new set of challenges to many. School closings, income loss and social distancing practices make it incredibly difficult for these adults and children to provide safe nourishment for their bodies. That’s why the nonprofit Food Equality Initiative (FEI) is so important now.

FEI is committed to providing allergy friendly and gluten free food to individuals diagnosed with food allergies or celiac disease. And with more people experiencing income loss due to the crisis, Founder and CEO Emily Brown said that funding has been essential to making sure their clients have what they need.

“We had to suspend our in-pantry services because the majority of clients we serve are in that vulnerable population,” she said. “The funding allowed us to essentially adapt to a delivery model very quickly.”

Within a week, Emily said that the organization was able to hire a delivery company and overcome supply chain issues even though it was not in their original budget. The quick pivot in organization operations had surprising results.

“Our utilization is up 240%. You can't meet that kind of demand without increased funding,” she said.

Meeting the increase in demand brought on by COVID-19 was a goal that FEI achieved quickly. However, the organization also wanted to make sure that the quality of the products and service delivery met their client’s expectations. That’s why they started collecting data on client satisfaction from day one of their delivery service.

“Overwhelmingly 92% of our clients said that they were satisfied with the delivery and that they were satisfied with the quantity and the quality of the foods,” she said. “So, it's been a very positive experience.”

When asked if the delivery service would continue even after their in-pantry services started back up again, Emily’s answer was simple.

“We’re going to do it from now on,” she said.

United Way of Greater Kansas City has been a long-term partner with FEI to provide safe foods for individuals in their program. Now more than ever though, Emily said that collaboration is the key to solving complex problems that many organizations must solve in an efficient and timely way.

“The work that nonprofits like Food Equality Initiative do is challenging and it’s work that can't be done without the support of the funders like United Way,” She said. “They not only provide funding but elevate issues in the public consciousness and engage community members in the work. That’s why I would say that our collaboration with them [United Way of Greater Kansas City] is very important.”