The Community First Grant Program supports nonprofits focused on long-term fresh, healthy food access and nutrition education that are engaged with Team Members. This includes community gardens, mobile markets, healthy cooking classes and more.
For 2023, we are thrilled to announce that we are awarding 64 Team Member-nominated, community-led organizations an average of $9,000 each to advance fresh food access through our annual Community First Grant.
Since 2016, we have awarded 406 grants in 149 cities, investing over $2,779,000. Nearly 240 Team Members from over 140 Whole Foods Market stores and every store support office have participated!
Each 2023 partner has been awarded a grant to support their projects, which include:
- 18 urban farms
- 17 community gardens
- 9 nutrition education and healthy cooking classes
- 7 agricultural skills development programs
- 5 farmer’s markets, co-ops and grocery stores
- 4 mobile markets
- 3 SNAP and WIC incentive programs
- 1 pop up market or CSA
Throughout the grant year, Team Members grow their relationships with their partners through volunteer and other engagement opportunities.
Click on the operational area to learn more about each 2023 Team Member and Community Partner.
Melissa Carrillo | Food Safety Risk Administrator | Napa Store | Napa, CA
Melissa has been making the most of her first two years as a Team Member by exploring ways to exemplify the cornerstone of Whole Foods Market — its Core Values. She successfully nominated Napa Farmers Market for a Community First Grant and is looking forward to giving back to her community. Partnering with the market allows her to support an organization whose mission aligns with her personal values and with Whole Foods Market’s higher purpose.
“As the Culture Champion Ambassador for our store, I have been able to learn more about our Foundations, and I think it’s important that everyone has an opportunity to understand how healthy food (or a lack thereof) can affect all aspects of our daily activities. By partnering with a farmer’s market, we have the ability to help local vendors provide fresh, seasonal and healthy food to our community, which in turn helps sustainability.”
Ryan Johnson | Produce/Floral Team Leader | Del Mar Store | San Diego, CA
Ryan has been a Team Member for two decades and has volunteered with Berry Good Food for eight years, so he has seen the positive impact that their educational programming is having on the community. He points out that not only are they growing awareness about the importance of food literacy, healthy eating and the local food system, they are also providing opportunities for community members, farmers, food justice advocates and chefs to bond over the ultimate connector — good food.
“I would like to see a lasting impact for the work that Berry Good Food does in the community, and I think that can be achieved with Whole Cities’ help. My goal is to assist them in increasing their cooking class frequency, as well as the scope of the communities they serve. It’s important to me that families across all cultural and financial backgrounds are able to attend.”
Chelsea Nienow | Associate Team Leader | Capitola Store | Capitola, CA
Chelsea is looking forward to launching a partnership with Common Roots Farm because it is dedicated to growing fresh, nutritionally dense food, food security and relationships — three priorities that she is eager to support. Chelsea and her fellow Team Members take pride in their community, and that is illustrated in their passion for volunteering and helping to expand fresh, healthy food access locally. She believes Common Roots Farm will be a great fit both for the Capitola store and for her personally.
“My goal for engaging with Common Roots Farm is to get the chance to get out in the field and make a meaningful impact with this local nonprofit. They value opportunities for mutual relationships between people with and without disabilities through farm-based social events, which I would love to be a part of as well. Plus, I have quite a few pairs of cowgirl boots just waiting to get a little dirt on them!”
Elaine Bettzig | Lead Receiver | Laurelhurst Store | Portland, OR
A Team Member for 15 years, Elaine believes nutrition education centered on fresh produce, simple meal prep and healthy living information can grow community health. Plus, by inspiring residents to take charge of their health, she thinks they can potentially cut down on health care visits and costs too. The Laurelhurst Store has an existing relationship with Quest Center for Integrative Health, so Elaine has supported the nonprofit for more than five years in a variety of ways from helping to prepare meals to gathering store donations. She nominated them for a grant in hopes of growing the relationship and engaging more Team Members.
“My goal is to offer multiple volunteer opportunities. I would like to build a connection for Team Members to learn from the Community Grant Program and inspire them to become more connected to our community.”
Tyler Blake | Supervisor | Quarry Store | San Antonio, TX
Tyler’s passion for community farming is rooted in his childhood experience with a small neighborhood garden and the impact it had on the health and wellbeing of his family. Now, almost a decade later, he is working to help another community experience those same benefits. Tyler has only been in San Antonio for a year and was recently introduced to William R. Sinkin Eco Centro’s Garcia Street Urban Farm. As he spearheads the partnership between the Quarry Store and the farm, he believes the possibilities are endless.
“This is only the beginning of something that I’m dedicated to seeing blossom in the next year. I want to help them in any way I can whether that means being out in the sun toiling soil, advocating for them in-store or driving team member engagement. Garcia Street Urban Farm is beyond incredible, and I cannot wait to see everything they’re able to accomplish.”
Freddie Cavazos | Specialty Team Leader | Cityline Store | Richardson, TX
Freddie has been a Team Member for nine years and is a returning Community First Grant participant. This year, he secured Restorative Farms’ third Community First Grant. He has supported the organization for several years as they work to improve fresh food access, create economic opportunities and break the cycle of poverty and resource depletion in South Dallas, one of the most impoverished and resource depleted areas in the U.S. Freddie is inspired by their adaption of growing technologies and their commitment to restorative justice.
“My goal for this Restorative Farms and Whole Foods Market partnership is to build a sustainable, long-lasting relationship with the community where we can work together to bring the farm’s vision to fruition and grow a better Dallas. I would love to see Whole Foods Market and Whole Cities continue to bring a bigger focus to local organizations like this.”
Celeste Cunningham | Global Data — Supplier Support Team Leader | Store Support Office | Austin, TX
Although Celeste has only been a Team Member for one year, she has been quick to embrace Whole Foods Market’s commitment to nourishing people and the planet. She nominated Simple Promise Farms for a Community First Grant because she shares their vision, mission and values, and she wants to be a part of building hope, meaningful purpose, and healthy relationships through farming. She plans to engage more Team Members and explore donation and volunteer opportunities to generate momentum and more fully support the farm as they cultivate change.
“Healthy food access is crucial for the happiness of our mind, body, and soul. Learning the skills to farm and become part of a community is a wonderful way for us to take care of each other and the earth. For me personally, this partnership will provide an opportunity to give back and become deeper rooted in the community.”
Tracy Danno | Customer Service Team Trainer | Bozeman Store | Bozeman, MT
What do we have if we don’t have our health, questions Tracy, a Team Member with one year experience at Whole Foods Market. She believes fresh, healthy food is where true health can begin, and it allows people to live their fullest, healthiest lives. Tracy sees the Community First Grant for Sage Gardeners as a win-win-win. First, the partnership supports Sage Gardeners’ mission of reconnecting seniors to their gardening roots through accessible gardens and garden therapy-based services. Second, the partnership contributes to a healthy, thriving community. Lastly, it provides a fulfilling way for Team Members to serve the community.
“My fellow team members and I understand it takes a village and a little love to help keep an abundant supply of easily accessible fresh food available to all who need it. We also know many hands make light work. I can’t wait to see them all dig in on some dirt fun!”
Nikki De Los Santos | Whole Body Team Member | Vineyard Store | San Antonio, TX
Nikki has been a Team Member for four years and is looking forward to partnering with Gardopia Gardens. She pursued the Community First Grant because of the garden’s mission, values, goals and garden-based learning programming that promotes health and environmental stewardship. Gardopia Gardens is working towards a sustainable society, empowered and educated to lead healthy lifestyles through gardening. Nikki appreciates that they are making healthy food options and food education accessible in a neighborhood that might not have them otherwise. Her goal is to offer responsive support and volunteer in ways that the organization needs her the most. She is also hoping to engage Team Members and her family so they can learn about advancing healthy food access.
“Expanding fresh, healthy food access and education is important for our community to enhance its quality of life, make informed choices, have access to those choices, and ultimately thrive.”
Steven Fenner | Associate Store Team Leader | Cerrillos Store | Santa Fe, NM
Steven is a Team Member with eight years of experience at Whole Foods Market. He has frequented his local farmers’ market for many years as a customer and now, after nominating the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market Institute for a Community First Grant, he is evolving that relationship into much more. The organization advocates for farmers, ranchers, and other land-based producers; provides equitable access to fresh, local food; owns and operates a year-round farmers’ market; and manages programs to help sustain a profitable, locally-based agricultural community. It’s a mission that closely echoes Whole Cities’ purpose of building thriving local food systems and growing community health. Steven looks forward to exploring opportunities for Team Members to support the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market Institute.
“Expanding fresh, healthy food access speaks directly to our Core Values, as does community partnerships.”
Quinne Kindler | Assistant Team Lead | Colleyville Store | Colleyville, TX
Within her first year with Whole Foods Market, Quinne was quick to embrace the spirit and passion that drives one of Whole Foods Market’s Core Values — We care about our community and the environment. Guided by this principle, she secured a Community First Grant for The Growing Place Community Garden, which is working to improve access to fresh, healthy foods locally. Quinne hopes to engage Team Members to help the community garden expand their volunteer and educational events. By supporting the community garden with funds and volunteer hours, Quinne believes the Colleyville Store can illustrate their commitment to building a thriving local food system, growing community health, and creating connections too.
“This garden is looking to grow not only plants but their community. They have had small events but are looking to expand to help out around Hurst!”
Bronwyn Pughe | Cashier | Chambers Bay Store | University Place, WA
For more than five years Bronwyn has been a member of University Place Community Garden, where she is currently a steering committee member and has also served as vice president and president. She appreciates that it’s a community of gardeners, and all are welcome. They socialize, help each other and work together despite age differences and language barriers. This Community First Grant partnership is an opportunity for Team Members to join in too. Bronwyn believes Team Member growth and happiness is not only about advancement at Whole Foods Market, it’s also about personal growth.
“By becoming stewards of nutritional health and combatting nutritional fragility, we serve our community. By adhering to high standards in the quality of food that we produce as a community and which we sell to our customers at Whole Foods Market, we model the behaviors we would like to see.”
Barbi Smith | Associate Store Team Leader | Bellingham Lakeway Store | Bellingham, WA
Barbi believes that expanding access to fresh, healthy food is at the heart of Whole Foods Market — and that’s one of the biggest reasons she has worked there for 15 years. She feels a responsibility to help support local farmers and producers and encourage a thriving local food system. So, in addition to being a regular Whole Foods Market shopper, she joins two local CSAs each year, frequents the farmer’s market, and grows her own food. Barbi’s involvement in the Community First Grant and the new relationship with her partner Twin Sisters Market is a natural extension of this commitment to local agriculture. Her goal is to volunteer with them for 15 hours each quarter and engage other Team Members too.
“I believe in what Twin Sisters Market is doing. I’m proud to be working with them, and I’d be thrilled about saying that Whole Foods Market had a hand in furthering their mission.”
Kelly Spillane | Investment Principal | Store Support Office | Austin, TX
Kelly has been a Team Member for over a year. Since joining the Business Development team she has been involved in volunteering at the Multicultural Refugee Coalition’s social enterprise New Leaf Agriculture. She and her colleagues volunteer a few times a year on the 20-acre organic farm and community garden that connects refugees to sustainable farming opportunities. Kelly enjoys working alongside other volunteers and refugee farmers, to support the seasonal work required to keep the farm as productive as possible. The farm provides work and farming opportunities for refugees. They can grow their own food for sharing with their families and communities. It affords them the chance to use their own traditional farming skills and practices to produce familiar and nutritious food. This is the fourth Community First Grant for Multicultural Refugee Coalition.
“I want to be helpful to Multicultural Refugee Coalition and continue to raise awareness of its work and objectives so others can help too. I strongly believe that access to high-quality healthy food is essential for all people, and I love the positive impact this organization has on people who have escaped challenging circumstances and are looking to start a new life, in a new country.”
Desiree Turchan | Associate Store Team Leader | Greenway Store | Portland, OR
Desiree has been with Whole Foods Market for 12 years, but she is new to Portland and excited to make a positive, meaningful impact. As a Culture Champion, she aims to serve as an example by modeling the Core Values in action, and she hopes to motivate fellow Team Members to get involved in the community too. Her goal during this grant cycle is to create a win-win-win partnership with Our Village Gardens to benefit the organization, Team Members, and the community as a whole.
“Here at the Greenway store, we believe all people have the right to fresh, nutrient-dense food, and we’re inspired by Whole Cities’ mission to support organizations that encourage connections and build community. We believe this is a more holistic, sustainable and necessary stepping stone towards stability and self-reliance for many impacted populations. We care deeply for our community and our environment and want to contribute to the betterment of both.”
Cassie Warning-Phon | Grocery Assistant Team Lead | Addison Store | Addison, TX
Cassie has been a Team Member for six years and believes that now, more than ever, it is important to help underserved communities. For her part, she secured a sixth Community First Grant for Bonton Farms, which runs one of the largest urban farms in the U.S., and an on-site market and café and offers nutritional programming and community-building opportunities. She is eager to start working with the farm and getting Team Members to join her.
“I believe it is our responsibility to help our communities, especially those who are often forgotten. I am excited to see firsthand the work Bonton Farms does for the community and to work alongside those who care about others the way I do. I know there are multiple opportunities to volunteer with Bonton Farms, and I can’t wait to get started. I am also excited to take my two young daughters and continue to share with them the importance of helping others.”
Phylicia Clutter | Customer Service Associate Team Leader | Overland Park Store | Overland Park, KS
Phylicia has been a Team Member for eight years and believes that everyone should be able to purchase fresh, healthy foods no matter where they live. This is the second year she has helped to secure a Community First Grant for Kanbe’s Markets, which works to eliminate food insecurity by empowering individuals and providing them with healthy choices. Phylicia has been volunteering alongside a few other Team Members. Together, for a couple hours, they help Kanbe’s Markets by sorting pallets of produce. She looks forward to getting more Team Members involved during this next grant year.
“My goal is for Kanbe’s Markets to further their business, so they are able to help more families in the Kansas City area have access to fresh produce!”
Naomy Erazo | Whole Body Supplement Buyer and Team Trainer | River Forest Store | River Forest, IL
For Naomy, the problem is straightforward: Leading a healthy life is difficult without access to nutritious food. She believes that amplifying programs focused on fresh, healthy food access can advance healthy lifestyle education, unite communities and ultimately, break down barriers to provide healthy food for all. Naomy has been a Team Member for five years, and this Community First Grant kicks off her relationship with By the Hand, which helps youth who live in under-resourced neighborhoods have abundant lives through programing like student entrepreneurship.
“My goal is to learn and contribute as much as I can, and provide myself as a resource this community partner can rely on. I would like to see the impact our donation can do for this organization and how our insight can bring the students more knowledge.”
Christian Galtieri | E-commerce Team Leader | Lexington Store | Lexington, KY
Several years ago, the Lexington store began partnering with FoodChain, a locally led nonprofit dedicated to forging links between their community and fresh food through education and demonstration of sustainable food systems. This year, Christian nominated the partner for their third Community First Grant with hopes of further advancing their mission, evolving the partnership, and engaging even more Team Members. She points out that Whole Foods Market culture is strong in the Lexington store, and Team Members are always excited to volunteer.
“It all comes back to Whole Foods Market’s Core Values. Being able to put them into action and seeing the results makes what we do each day have purpose. Our goal is to help better our community. Continuing the partnership between Whole Cities and FoodChain will help give access to fresh healthy food and educate more people about its benefits.”
Gennaro Galtieri | Senior Field Associate | Store Support Office | Lexington, KY
Gennaro, a Team Member for 13 years and a returning Community First Grant participant, believes fresh, healthy food access is a pathway to improving the lives in communities. He secured a grant for Northside Common Market, and his goals for the partnership include helping them to grow nutritional education and healthy cooking programming. Gennaro is also hoping to serve as a liaison between Northside Common Market and other Community First Grant partners in the area.
“I am excited to further work with our partners at Northside Common Market because of what the organization has been able to accomplish since their inception. Expanding the mission to a more food-centric facet seems to have great potential and aligns well with my passions around advancing healthy food to the community, as well as the goals of Whole Cities.”
Katie Grandy | Prepared Foods Team Leader | Wauwatosa Store | Wauwatosa, WI
Supporting community gardens and green spaces has been Katie’s passion for a long time. Groundwork Milwaukee helps maintain all the green spaces in Milwaukee, including a free food garden that Katie manages. So, she has seen firsthand how they provide guidance for securing grants, resources for growing, and most recently, even fruit trees to some of the gardens. She has managed her garden for five years and credits Groundwork Milwaukee as being there every step of the way.
“I wanted Groundwork Milwaukee to receive a Community First Grant because of all the help that they provide to community gardens in my neighborhood. I have received funding and support from this community partner for our garden, and they put all the funding to the best possible use. They provide a really great network to those of us running the gardens, and they help keep Milwaukee green.”
Charlotte Hall | Cashier’s Assistant | Bowman Store | Little Rock, AR
Charlotte has been a Whole Foods Market Team Member for 17 years, however, her dedication to community partnerships and service extends beyond the store walls. For the second time, she has helped to secure a Community First Grant for Well Fed Community Development Corporation. Expanding fresh, healthy food access is important to Charlotte and her fellow Team Members, and they are always looking for impactful ways to serve the Little Rock community. So, renewing this partnership holds a lot of potential.
“My goal for engaging with Well Fed is to help support these food heroes in Arkansas! Well Fed exists to provide free healthy foods and nutrition coaching to families in need. My hope is to see Whole Foods Market Team Members come alongside this community partner and find ways to serve, volunteer and support this great local movement.”
Christopher McAlister | Store Trainer | Birmingham Store | Birmingham, MI
After a chance meeting with a member of Keep Growing Detroit, Christopher learned how well the organization aligns with Whole Foods Market’s higher purpose of nourishing people and the planet. He went on to secure a fifth Community First Grant for the locally led nonprofit and looks forward to supporting Keep Growing Detroit as they cultivate a food sovereign city. He is hoping to evolve the partnership throughout the metro area by regularly engaging Team Member volunteers from Whole Foods Market stores all over the greater Detroit area.
“Food is one of the most important things in life, especially healthy food. I’ve spent a lot of time in the Detroit area, and often nutritional food is hard to come by. It’s either cheap gas station food or expensive restaurants with no in-between. Everyone should have healthy food available to them!”
Ron McCann | Associate Store Team Leader | Dublin Store | Columbus, OH
This is Ron’s second year spearheading a Community First Grant for Franklinton Farms, which is now a four-time grant recipient. He is not alone in his commitment to the highly productive urban farm and environmental education nonprofit. The Columbus Metro Community Engagement Group pledged to reinvigorate Team Member community outreach after the Pandemic, and last year’s Community First Grant partnership with Franklinton Farms kicked off this initiative. Ron aims to build on this momentum.
“While it has always been an important topic for me personally, with this rise in food prices, it is even more difficult for many in our community to have access to and be able to afford quality, healthy food. By being proactive and assisting Franklinton Farms and others, we feel we can make a difference in helping a large portion of our community to be knowledgeable about and have access to healthier food choices. The long-term effect will make for a better, healthier community.”
Sonja McCarrel | Associate Store Team Leader | Market Square Store | Indianapolis, IN
Sonja, a Team Member for 14 years, has supported her community partner Growing Places Indy for several years alongside Market Square Store Team Members through volunteer and sponsorship opportunities and store donations. Her goal in securing a Community First Grant is to evolve the relationship and provide Growing Places Indy with additional resources to grow their farm and positively impact the community. Sonja would also like to gain a deeper understanding of organic farming and the role it plays in Growing Places Indy’s efforts to cultivate individual, family and community wellness.
“We have a large population in Indianapolis that can not afford fresh produce. They are a part of our community, and we interact with them daily. Many of us are making an impact by volunteering at these urban farms, and we want to find bigger ways to help nourish our community.”
Matthew McNeill | Team Trainer | Lexington Store | Lexington, KY
A returning Community First participant with three years of experience at Whole Foods Market, Matthew volunteers with his partner Seedleaf regularly. He also rents a plot in one of their gardens to grow flowers, vegetables and herbs. His degree and early career background in natural resource management made getting involved with Seedleaf a natural step in his career. Matthew hopes to deepen his commitment with the nonprofit during the upcoming grant year and engage a group of other regularly participating Team Members too. He believes that there is always room for involvement.
“The long-standing relationship between the Lexington Store and Seedleaf shows what a profound effect we can have in our own community by supporting and uplifting our partners. By continuing to invest in Seedleaf, Whole Foods Market Team Members are making measurable positive change in their own community year over year.”
Paige Miller | Customer Service | Kansas City Store | Kansas City, MO
Paige is a Team Member with 13 years of experience at Whole Foods Market and a returning Community First Grant participant. Not too far from the Kansas City Store, residents have limited access to fresh and healthy food options. Paige sees the partnership with George Washington Carver Farm, a small farm on the east side of Kansas City, as a way to help bring more fresh, healthy options to those neighbors and as an opportunity to put Core Values into action. She hopes to encourage Team Member participation by creating hands-on volunteer opportunities.
“It’s been great to see the farm grow and make connections in the neighborhood. I would like to see the farm expand so that they can offer more CSA subscriptions next season. It would also be awesome if they could increase their production enough to explore selling some of their produce in our store!”
Brittany Plante | Whole Body Associate Team Leader | West Lane Store | Upper Arlington, OH
The West Lane Store recently launched a partnership with Ohio Ecological Food and Farming Association that includes a series of volunteer opportunities to help some of the 90 Ohio farms the organization supports. Through volunteering, the importance of expanding access to fresh, healthy food became apparent to Brittany and several of her fellow Team Members. She nominated the organization for a Community First Grant to deepen the store’s commitment and amplify Ohio Ecological Food and Farming Association’s mission to cultivate sustainable agriculture and local food systems.
“I want our community to know we are actually ‘in the field’ supporting our community and that our Team Members truly care. I plan to volunteer every month and bring back some type of food and have the rest of the team who were not able to go, sample the local food. That way, all team members can participate.”
Ge Song | Legal Team Regulatory Counsel | Store Support Office | St. Louis, MO
As an attorney working on food on Whole Foods Market’s regulatory legal team, Ge’s work is centered around achieving the highest quality and compliance of products sold in the store. However, her goal of providing high quality food extends into the community too. This is her second time nominating Operation Food Search for a Community First Grant.
“I grew up in China where there are grocery stores or markets on every corner, and morning or night markets with produce and fresh prepared foods. People don’t need to drive or have much money to buy fresh produce. However, the infrastructure in the U.S. is not set up to facilitate fresh food access in the same way. I enjoy my daily work, I believe in Whole Foods Market’s vision, and I like St. Louis. Therefore, I want to help expand fresh, healthy food access here.”
Edward Whittington | Prepared Foods Supervisor | Galleria Store | St. Louis, MO
Edward has been a Team Member for 12 years and this year, he secured The Community Gardens of Hope Hill’s fifth Community First Grant. He believes that community gardens can make a difference in the efforts to advance healthy food access locally. For his part, he has been engaged with his community partner for more than five years and spends his volunteer hours primarily supporting infrastructure projects like irrigation, electric, construction, painting, mulching and weed control needs. Edward’s favorite moments are meeting the neighbors who participate, learn and grow in the garden.
“My goal is to grow the garden, improve the community aspect of Ferguson, feed and teach the North County residents how to grow and cook their own nutritional food. I particularly like to build the physical infrastructure. I would like to continue to grow the garden with more beds and an expanded orchard.”
Tecumseh Allen | Associate Store Team Leader | Bedford Store | Bedford, NH
Tecumseh secured New Hampshire Food Bank’s second Community First Grant and looks forward to evolving the partnership beyond the donations the store has been providing to the nonprofit so far. He was drawn to supporting them because of their commitment to expanding fresh, healthy food access and their reach within the community. Tecumseh believes that this partnership could provide a welcoming avenue into community volunteerism for many Team Members.
“My goal in engaging with the NHFB is to help bring more awareness to the work they do in and around our community, engage our team members through volunteering and grow the culture of community and compassion within our surrounding areas.”
James Clancy | Associate Store Team Leader | Hingham Store | Hingham, MA
This is the third year James, a 15-year Team Member, has participated in the Community First Grant program. This time, he secured grants for two Hingham-area nonprofits: Weymouth Food Pantry and Holly Hill Farm. James wants the Hingham Store to be an example to the other stores of how to grow community relations and inspire a culture of volunteerism to better the community.
“I have been active with Whole Cities for a few years. During that time, I have had my eyes opened to the struggles our community members face with food insecurity. The scope of the problem is staggering. My work with our grant recipients has changed who I am. At Whole Foods Market, we strive to provide healthy options to our customers, and our work with partner organizations can expand that to people that otherwise couldn’t access fresh, healthy food. I view it as my duty in leadership here to expand food access to our entire community.”
Avery Danielson | Store Trainer | Shrewsbury Store | Shrewsbury, MA
Avery, a Team Member with eight years experience at Whole Foods Market, believes it is a collective responsibility to advocate for initiatives that ensure everyone has the opportunity to nourish their bodies with healthy food, regardless of their socioeconomic status or geographic location. Avery was introduced to Dismas House Farm through in-store initiatives like quarterly giving. Avery has set a goal to spend 10-20 hours volunteering for the farm per quarter, as well to inspire other Team Members to get involved too.
“Expanding fresh, healthy food access is important to me because it is a matter of social justice and wellbeing. By ensuring that fresh and healthy food is accessible to all, we can address health disparities. Moreover, expanding fresh, healthy food access supports local economies and sustainable agricultural practices. By prioritizing local sourcing and sustainable farming, we can stimulate local businesses, reduce our carbon footprint, and contribute to a healthier environment.”
Ashley Davies | Specialty Associate Team Leader | Victoria Uptown Mall | Victoria, BC
Ashey, a Team Member for five years, believes that healthy food access and nutrition education is the foundation for preventing lifestyle-related illnesses, promoting sustainable agriculture practices, and strengthening the local economy. She successfully secured a Community First Grant for LifeCycles Project and is excited to learn more about growing food and advancing healthy food access locally. Ashley is also hoping to learn more about protecting native biodiversity and preventing the homogenization of flora on the island. She would like to partner with the store’s Culture Champion Team to generate engagement opportunities to support this partnership.
“I live in close proximity to one of LifeCycles Project’s sites and love seeing the amazing work that goes on. I’m inspired by their mission to expand knowledge of local food systems and to make nutrition education interactive and accessible to the people of Victoria. I’m excited to learn more about growing food and supporting biodiversity in our community.”
Louise Day | Store Scanning Specialist | West Vancouver Store | West Vancouver, BC
Louise nominated Squamish Climate Action Network for a Community First Grant because she believes that everyone should have access to fresh, nutritious food for the health and happiness of the entire community. She looks forward to becoming more immersed in her community by working with the organization as it develops inclusive, sustainable food systems. The grant marks the launch of her relationship with Squamish Climate Action Network, and she’s looking forward to starting with Team Members by her side.
“For me and other Team Members, finding a way to further the availability of healthy food and the health of our planet at the same time is our highest goal. My own personal goal is to be able to offer support to this very timely and locally land-based organization in bringing health and vibrancy to our land and community.”
Agnes Kerley | Produce/Floral Team Trainer | Albany Store | Albany, NY
Agnes has been a Team Member for nine years and is a returning Community First Grant participant. She points out that as a Produce Team Member, she is surrounded by fresh fruits and vegetables daily. However, many other residents do not have that same easy access. She is part of the store’s Culture Champion Program, which recently recognized that through the Community First Grant program they have an opportunity to fulfill the Whole Foods Market’s pillars of “Food” and “Community Connection.” Agnes is excited to be deepening her support of Schenectady Community Ministries.
“I lived in Schenectady for many years and know all too well the poverty and disenfranchisement of many of the city’s residents. I am looking forward to continuing my involvement with the Schenectady Inner City Mission by volunteering with their urban gardens and nutrition classes.”
Julie Lustig | Store Team Leader | West Vancouver Store | West Vancouver, BC
Julie has been a Team Member for 16 years and has secured a second Community First Grant for Qqs (Eyes) Projects Society. The organization is dedicated to supporting the community, culture and environment of the Heiltsuk Nation, indigenous peoples in the Central Coast region of British Columbia. Qqs Projects Society is located on the island village of Bella Bella, so Team Members can’t volunteer in person. Instead, they have implemented creative ways to further the organization’s efforts from a distance such as seed and gardening book drives.
“We are very privileged in Vancouver to be a very walkable city with many fresh food options. This is not the case for many communities, especially those in Northern Canada. Being so fortunate to live and work where I do, I would like to be able to use my influence to assist those who do not have access to the same resources.”
Alexander Mendoza | Senior Team Member Services Business Partner | Store Support Office | Somerville, MA
A Team Member for 14 years, Alexander secured a Community First Grant for Groundwork Somerville, a five-time grantee. In addition to the established partnership between the nonprofit and the Boston Metro Whole Foods Market stores, Alexander was drawn to Groundwork Somerville because of its dedication to advancing community health and creating a more equitable community through youth empowerment, urban farming, food access for all, and community engagement. He hopes to volunteer once a quarter and to eventually organize multi-store Team Member volunteer activities too. Alexander believes that nourishing people is vital to communities.
“Everyone deserves fresh food access. Whole Foods Market has done so much to increase awareness and availability of fresh, healthy foods in their stores that it is only right to try and extend that same access to people who aren’t Whole Foods Market shoppers.”
Whitney Moore | Store Scanning Specialist | Bellingham Store | Bellingham, MA
Medway Community Farm has previously received a Whole Kids Foundation Garden Grant and has hosted volunteers from the Bellingham Store. So, Whitney, a Team Member with nine years experience, sees the Community First Grant as an opportunity to grow this community partnership. As the Culture Champion Ambassador, she provides opportunities for Team Members to support local organizations while gaining new skills, valuable experiences and a sense of purpose. The Medway Community Farm partnership provides that — and more. Whitney believes amplifying the farm’s efforts to expand healthy food access can have a far-reaching impact on the community.
“One of my goals is to help Medway Community Farm grow their resources so they can widen their reach within local communities. Expanding fresh and healthy food access is important because it gives people in underserved communities a better chance at feeding their families a healthy meal. In addition, access to healthy food can also promote social interaction and a sense of community, both of which are important for mental wellbeing.”
Nia Nugent-Faverman | Associate Store Team Leader | Wellesley Store | Wellesley, MA
Participating in a Healthy Eating Immersion program in 2011 drastically changed the way Nia approaches food. She has since transformed her life and health thanks to learning the correlation between what she eats and how she feels. She has been with Whole Foods Market for 15 years, and this is her second time nominating Regional Environmental Council for a Community First Grant. She believes the organization is a pillar in the Worcester community for getting fresh, healthy food into the hands of those who need it most. Nia is especially interested in their operations and hopes to get more hands-on experience with their gardens and mobile markets though she will participate in whatever capacity they might need.
“If I can help my community be lifted up, so that not only do they have the healthy food access, but the education to handle and prepare that food so that it is more appealing than $1 fast food, I will do it!”
Ezalino Picanco | Store Trainer | Wellesley Store | Wellesley, MA
A Team Member for 11 years, Ezalino nominated Needham Community Farm for a Community First Grant. The Wellesley Store appointed the farm as a Store Giving Program recipient in 2022, and Team Members have already volunteered there and witnessed how passionate the Needham Community Farm team is and the impact they have with their stakeholders. Ezalino and his fellow peers are eager to grow the relationship.
“As Team Members, we sometimes take food for granted because of the easy access most of us have to it, especially working at Whole Foods Market. There are so many people out there in this world who are malnourished for lacking the resources needed to receive fresh, healthy food. We need to help in any way possible to make sure everyone has the means to receive healthy food on a regular basis.”
Sandra Superior | Store Trainer | Bedford New Hampshire Store | Bedford, New Hampshire
Sandra has been a Team Member for three years and sees improving fresh, healthy foods access through sustainable solutions as a long-term investment in a community’s local food system and its health. She is passionate about Grow Nashua, which focuses on growing a resilient Nashua through educational programming and urban growing spaces like community vegetable gardens and school gardens. Sandra plans to serve the organization in any way they need her — as a garden steward, a community liaison, or a builder to help construct the gardens’ infrastructures.
“My goal is to support the goals and success of Grow Nashua. They are aligned with what excites me! I actually found them when I was looking for community garden space. I am passionate about being part of an organization that gives people the opportunity to grow their own food.”
Alex Serrano | Associate Store Team Leader | Medford Store | Medford, MA
Alex has been a Team Member for 14 years and understands that Whole Foods Market’s higher purpose of nourishing people extends far beyond store walls into the communities. He knows that by amplifying organizations that expand healthy food access, Team Members are doing more than nourishing people, they are creating relationships and opportunities. Urban Farming Institute aims to develop and promote urban farming to engage individuals in growing food and building a healthy community. They create local jobs, engage people in growing food, and build a healthier, locally-based food system and a more resilient community for the community’s underserved populations. Alex has secured Urban Farming Institute’s first Community First Grant, and the funds will support their farm operations.
“Expanding fresh, healthy food access is important to the Medford Store because we want our communities to have great food and build connections between local organizations and Team Members.”
Sam Baris | Store Team Leader | Williamsburg Store | Brooklyn, NY
Sam, a Team Member for two decades, believes that as a large corporation doing business across the U.S., Whole Foods Market has an obligation to work outside of its stores to improve local communities. Fresh, healthy food is at the core of Whole Foods Market’s mission, and Sam points out that there are countless local organizations making it more accessible, so amplifying their efforts helps to fulfill the store’s mission and obligation. His partner, Hattie Carthan Community Foodways, was previously nominated for a Community First Grant grant by the Williamsburg Store’s neighboring Third and 3rd Store in 2022.
“Hattie Carthan Community Foodways does amazing work in the community and are so passionate about their mission. I used to live in the neighborhood they are in and am very familiar with the location, and I know they are highly respected in the community. Their involvement in community activism and the way they speak about food apartheid is very powerful.”
Karen Dallett | Associate Store Team Leader | Yonkers Store | Yonkers, NY
Although she has been with Whole Foods Market for less than two years, Karen has a strong understanding of how working with local nonprofits allows Team Members to collaborate on something larger than themselves. The Yonkers Store is located near the Bronx Community Farm Hub, a collective community-based network made up of neighborhood community gardens and urban farms including the Mary Mitchell Family and Youth Center. The 2022 Community First Grant partnership with the organization generated vibrant interest for volunteering, and an opportunity around Earth Day 2023 inspired 14 Team Members to help in the garden. Karen expects momentum to grow this year, and asks, How can we not continue this amazing connection?
“Our goal is simple and direct: Sharing the love that we have for our community by nurturing others with food grown by our collective energy with the planet. It comes down to our love for one another, our planet and health.”
Denise Kick | Shift Leader | Manhasset Store | Manhasset, NY
In securing a third Community First Grant for Queens County Farm Museum, Denise is solidifying an important metro community relationship. The partnership was previously managed by the Third and 3rd Store though Manhasset Team Members have already volunteered at the farm several times too. Denise explains that the partnership and its goal of expanding fresh, healthy food access to all is important to Team Members because everyone deserves to eat fresh, healthy and delicious food — it should not be a privilege. One of her goals is to volunteer at least five hours per quarter and learn more about how an urban farm is run.
“The thing I enjoy most about volunteering is knowing that the work I am doing makes a difference and really helps this community. The other benefits are being outside in the fresh air and working alongside my fellow Team Members in a beautiful environment. It is great!”
Ayesha McNeill | Store Trainer | Williamsburg Store | Brooklyn, NY
Ayesha became involved with Project EATS during their first Community First Grant year in 2022. This year, her goal is to serve as a liaison and engage as many Team Member volunteers as possible while also being a strong partner as Project EATS develops and grows. As a Culture Champion Ambassador and Team Member with five years of in-store experience, she works to keep the Whole Foods Market culture alive. She believes that supporting Project EATS with a Community First Grant is one way to express the Core Value: We care for the community and the environment.
“The expansion of healthy food access is important to me because it grows my knowledge of healthier foods. There are a ton of people who have food insecurities but having access to healthy foods should be a basic right, instead of being reserved for a privileged few.”
Taina Morales | Store Team Leader | Upper East Side Store | New York, NY
Taina has been a Team Member for 14 years, and she is passionate about expanding fresh food access and healthy living education across the NYC-metro area. For the second time, she secured Community First Grants for two Bronx-based nonprofits: Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice and We Stay/Nos Quedamos. This is the fifth grant for both organizations. Taina is part of a small but reliable group of Team Member volunteers. Her goal is to continue building strong relationships with both partners as they develop sustainable solutions to advancing healthy food access and nutrition education.
“My Team Members and I strive to provide the best quality healthy food to those who shop at our store, but not everyone can afford to shop here. That is why we love what these organizations are doing to expand on healthy options.”
Datza Pogson | Associate Store Team Leader | Woodcliff Store | Woodcliff Lake, NY
Datza has been a Team Member for three years and is a returning Community First Grant participant. Last year, she nominated FamilyCook Productions for a grant because they design hands-on nutrition education programs tailored to the needs of the communities in all five Boroughs of New York and beyond. She recently relocated to the Woodcliff Store where she’s looking forward to introducing Team Members to the organization. Datza hopes this year’s grant will help grow the nonprofit’s CHEF program for young adults, which combines healthy cooking skill development with food career exploration. This is FamilyCook Productions’ third Community First Grant.
“FamilyCook Productions is a leading innovator in the Teaching Kitchen movement. Their range of teaching kitchen curricula have effectively demonstrated how festive, one-pot, multicultural recipes appeal to audiences of every age and socio-economic background. They develop sustainable solutions that build over time to transform communities and create a culture of wellness.”“I have always believed in supporting and giving back to my community through volunteering opportunities. I love to help my community any time. Expanding access to fresh, affordable healthy food and offering healthy food nutrition programs will help improve many of my neighbors’ lives.”
Yekini Saka | Prepared Foods Team Member | Third and 3rd Store | Brooklyn, NY
Yekini isn’t just a partner to Ocean Bay Community Development Corporation — he’s a neighbor. He points out that it is hard to find fresh, healthy food in his neighborhood on the Rockaway peninsula, however local nonprofit organizations like Ocean Bay Community Development Corp provide community services and programs to expand access that can improve the lives and wellbeing of local residents. He was introduced to Ocean Bay Community Development Corporation, a four-time grantee, by another Team Member who asked how close he lived to the partner. When they realized he was just blocks away, he offered to spearhead this year’s grant partnership.
Margot Sansone | Associate Store Team Leader | Fort Greene Store | Brooklyn, NY
Margot has been a Team Member for nearly 14 years and first began participating in the Community First Grant program in 2022. This year, she nominated Hester Street and United Community Centers, both of which are returning Community First Grant recipients. Each works in different ways to create healthy, equitable, sustainable and resilient neighborhoods. Margot points out that Team Members at the Fort Greene Store have a strong sense of community, and she believes they will be excited to support both organizations and assist in their growth and success.
“We find it valuable to expand healthy food access and education because it is extremely important for the health of our community. Everyone should be able to access foods which provide nourishment. Healthy foods increase your quality of life and improve your health. It is essential that it is accessible to all.”
Kali Warren | E-commerce Shopper | P Street Store | Washington DC
Kali is fairly new to Whole Foods Market, but she has had a long-standing relationship with Dreaming Out Loud Inc. The locally led nonprofit works to secure greater access to healthy food, equitable food systems, and economic empowerment for the DC metropolitan region. Their advocacy, three-acre urban farm and farmers markets aim to foster community self-determination and food sovereignty. This is the first Community First Grant for Dreaming Out Loud Inc., and they plan to apply the funds to materials and supplies. Kali’s goal is to volunteer more and attend events in support of the organization’s mission.
“If there are farms where one can produce fresh healthy food for the people of this world to access then it should be provided because people deserve to live healthy, fruitful lives at an affordable level.”
Vince Sciolla | Produce Team Leader | Williamsburg Store | Brooklyn, NY
Vince secured Seeds in the Middle’s first Community First Grant in order to support their Lloyd Porter Dinner Parties and Farm Stands project. The program teaches culinary arts and entrepreneurship to at-risk young people while providing fresh, delicious, nutritious meals and access to affordable fresh fruits and vegetables to their communities, and he identifies greatly with this mission. As a self taught cook that jumped directly into the Prepared Foods kitchens when he started at Whole Foods Market, it brings him joy to see communities coming together to practice, teach, and connect over healthy cooking, a gift that keeps on giving.
“As the Produce Team Leader, I’m continually making sure that we’re offering the highest quality produce. It’s a big reason why I chose Whole Foods Market — the top notch organic produce. Making sure that good food gets into the hands and mouths of those who need it is not just a job, it’s a calling.”
Maryann Young | Prepared Foods Team Member | Third and 3rd Store | Brooklyn, NY
During her decade with Whole Foods Market, Maryann has enthusiastically spearheaded 22 Community First Grants and forged many community partnerships that continue to thrive today. This grant cycle marks her final year with the grant program before she retires. Through these community partnerships, Maryann has come across many determined women who are protecting and improving lives in their communities and committed to building a safer, healthier and sustainable environment. So, it’s fitting that this year’s partner Isabahlia Ladies of Elegance Foundation was created in memory of Isabahlia Martin Ortiz, a self-empowered, single mother who provided supportive services to her community through expressing her love of cooking, baking and volunteering.
“I have come to cherish the mission of Whole Cities and their focus to expand healthy food access to all. It is not only important, it is vitally necessary! The last five years of nominating Isabahlia Ladies of Elegance Foundation has been an immensely rewarding endeavor.”
Lexi Adams | Associate Store Team Leader | Germantown Store | Germantown, TN
As a Team Member for 14 years and a volunteer at Landmark Training Development Company for more than five years, Lexi believes that expanding access to fresh food and healthy eating education can happen by supporting local, grassroots partnerships like the one between Whole Foods Market and Landmark Training Development Company. This year, she secured the nonprofit’s fifth Community First Grant, and her goal is to have at least three volunteer events with the farm. Lexi plans on tapping into the well of volunteers from the Germantown and Poplar Avenue Stores.
“There are several areas in Memphis with barriers to healthy food including limited or no access to grocery stores. Securing fresh, healthy food access and offering nutrition education helps these communities thrive. It’s rewarding for our Team Members to be able to help our communities succeed.”
Kimberly Dawson | E-commerce Team Member | North Raleigh Store | Raleigh, NC
Kimberly has been working with her partner Turning Point Community Development Corporation for more than five years. The nonprofit provides leadership and programming in education, health and wellness, economic development, and community engagement to help local, rural communities thrive. It’s the impactful, wide-spread benefits of these programs that motivate Kimberly to support and amplify their efforts. During this grant cycle year, she aspires to volunteer as often as possible — at least 12 hours per quarter — and she plans to inspire others to join her.
“My interest with Turning Point CDC is its commitment to improving the lives of the people in our rural community while encouraging education for all age levels, as well as health, whole body wellness, mental and spiritual growth to entire families. This growth translates to safer neighborhoods, financial stability, unity and an overall productive and expanding community effort as we all work together towards the same goal.”
Dolly Fields | Store Team Leader | Tallahassee Store | Tallahassee, FL
Dolly has been with Whole Foods Market for a decade and is quick to point out that she and her fellow Team Members want to live in a healthy, thriving community. The Tallahassee store has a successful food donation program while also focusing on strengthening long-term healthy food access opportunities like supporting the next generation of local farmers. Partnering with Red Hills Small Farm Alliance allows them to do that. The organization’s mission is threefold: economic stability for small farm enterprises; professional farmer development and consumer education; and food access to all citizens in their area. Dolly has been working with the organization for a few years and hopes to engage more Team Members to volunteer too.
“The Red Hills Small Farm Alliance is an incredible resource for both small farmers and the community in which they serve. Whole Foods Market shares similar Core Values and wants to perpetuate the sustainable farming practices and distribution of healthy food.”
Brent Kirk | Store Receiver | Short Pump Store | Glen Allen, VA
With 11 years at Whole Foods Market, Brent is committed to making fresh, healthy food accessible to his community both in and out of the store. After learning about the Community First Grant a couple years ago, he started volunteering at Williams City Farms and then secured a grant for the organization. Brent has been recruiting friends and Team Members to join him in the farm every other week, and his efforts have been paying off. He’s already seen an increase in Team Member volunteers from last year.
“Everyone should have the opportunity to have real fresh food, to learn how to grow it and a space to grow it. Learning about the source of our food is a process everyone should experience. I enjoy seeing the farm changing and getting better every time I volunteer. I know what I am doing is helping the farm and helping people get access to fresh food.”
Chloe Mandarino | Prepared Foods Team Member | Uptown Charlotte Store | Charlotte, NC
Chloe is not only a Team Member, she also worked with Carolina Farm Trust as their Program Coordinator. After completing a Masters’ Degree in Public Health and working at Whole Foods Market for several years, she knew supporting the nonprofit’s mission was a perfect fit for her next step. She loves working with the farm because she learns something new about farming and the environment daily and gets to spend time outside. Chloe’s roles — at Whole Foods Market and Carolina Farm Trust — help her fulfill her love of nourishing people and the planet.
“Being a Culture Champion at Whole Foods Market is one of my proudest accomplishments, and I knew Carolina Farm Trust fit into Whole Foods Market’s beliefs. Once I found out about the Community First Grant, I could not wait to get other Team Members involved. I have already been able to get a few to shop at their farmstand and take a tour of the farm!”
Nancy Mitchell | Store Support Supervisor | Knoxville Store | Knoxville, TN
As the Knoxville Store’s Culture Champions Ambassador, Nancy works closely with the TMAG Group. Together they are always looking for ways to support nonprofits in their community. She credits her 15 years with Whole Foods Market as raising awareness about the importance of healthy eating and a healthy lifestyle, and she nominated CAC Beardsley Community Farm because she believes everyone should have access to fresh, healthy food.
“My goal is to gain experience in the garden such as composting, seed saving, beekeeping, basic construction, to be active in the community, and to impact large amounts of people while learning sustainable farming techniques. That will, in turn, impact the environment. Beardsley Farm aligns with our Core Value of nourishing people and the planet. We look forward to developing a relationship with this organization and having ongoing volunteer opportunities for our Team Members.”
Tracy Zambito | Customer Service Team Leader | Palm Beach Gardens Store | Palm Beach Gardens, FL
Tracy has been a Team Member for 25 years, so she understands what it means to embody Whole Foods Market’s higher purpose. After attending a Whole Cities’ workshop earlier this year, she connected with the garden director at Riviera Beach Community Development Corporation and signed up as a volunteer. Her goal is to spend a minimum of two hours every Wednesday morning with the garden and hopes to engage at least 20 fellow Team Members to get involved too. Tracy aims to learn more about gardening too.
“We are a passionate group here in Palm Beach Gardens, and we want to help nourish people and the planet. The Riviera Beach Community Garden is set in a food insecure area and focuses on feeding folks in need, teaching them gardening, regenerative growing methods and healthy cooking classes. I like volunteering there because I like the feeling I get when I am helping people get access to healthy food.”