Two teenage boys hold boxes of potatoes on a farm in California

Three California Nonprofits Pivot in the Face of Adversity


From Northern California down to Southern California, our nonprofit partners in the Golden State have not skipped a beat in response to COVID-19.

Saint John’s Program for Real Change – Sacramento, CA

Saint John’s Program for Real Change, in Sacramento, is known for having the region’s largest residential program for formerly homeless women and children. When the Coronavirus hit in March, it placed added pressure on the shelter to keep its residents safe and healthy. Saint John’s takes a unique approach to empowering women and children as it addresses the root causes of homelessness in order to tackle the symptoms.

During their 18-month stay at Saint John’s, women gain up to 500 hours of on-the-job training through the work they do at Saint John’s businesses – Plates Café and Catering, Plates Midtown restaurant, and First Steps Child Development Center.

Typically, Saint John’s hosts its Employee Training Program off-site at Plates Midtown, but when the restaurant closed due to the Coronavirus quarantine measures, Saint John’s leadership team had to jump into action to find an alternative. They quickly came up with the idea to have the women work in the on-campus kitchen as this would not only help feed the current residents at Saint John’s, but it would allow the women to receive hands-on skills they could use for future job opportunities.

Women in the Saint John's Program for Change culinary training program prepare food in an industrial kitchen.

Fresh produce sits on a table in an industrial kitchen.

City Farm SLO – San Luis Obispo, CA

Down the coast in San Luis Obispo, City Farm SLO is also moving full steam ahead. Known locally for its sustainable agriculture and on-site youth education programs, City Farm SLO has been a pillar in the community since 2014. Despite the challenges from COVID-19, the organization has still managed to grow the size of its school gardens and subtenant farms this year.

One of City Farm’s core programs, the Farm Box Program, launched in 2019 in partnership with Pacific Beach Continuation High School. This program allows at-risk high school students to grow, wash, package and market the vegetables they harvest from their quarter acre school garden. In 2019, this Farm Box program was available to customers multiple times throughout the year, providing healthy, fresh, and seasonal produce to dozens of families.

Due to COVID-19, City Farm switched the Farm Box program to a pre-paid subscription model, having customers order their boxes in advance to help encourage safe social distancing at the time of pick up. Even through this new model, all proceeds still go directly back to City Farm’s educational programs, helping to connect local students with the area’s agricultural community.

Youth volunteers harvest produce on a farm.

Fresh zucchini squash and tomatoes in black produce bins.

Hero for Kids Foundation – Orange County, CA

Further south, in Orange County, HERO For Kids Foundation has also shown no sign of slowing down. Known in Southern California for providing essential resources and educational opportunities to low-income and homeless youth, HERO for Kids Foundation was concerned about the impact COVID-19 would have on its students. Fortunately, with strong leadership in place, the Foundation acted quickly, and instead of providing free meals to children in the school setting, they switched to delivering meals directly to at-risk families. Since March, HERO For Kids Foundation has seen an even greater increase of food insecurity for families in Orange County, and they are taking an active role in continuing to provide healthy food options to families in need.

Children prepare vegetables for a recipe.

Children cut avocados and carrots for a salad.

Our California nonprofit partners continue adapting to the challenges of COVID-19 with an unwavering commitment to their communities. Through their perseverance, they are teaching us all how to find new ways of serving those in need during this unique time.