The Big Day of Giving is coming up fast on Thursday, May 5, and it is an incredibly important day for us, like most Sacramento-region non-profits. We sincerely hope you will make a plan and set a reminder to give on May 5, or simply give right now while it’s on your mind.
In all honesty, we would have liked to do a major campaign leading up to Big Day of Giving to help you understand just how important your support is to us this year. While our staff has been growing, our workload has been growing even faster as we have said yes to many opportunities to make a serious impact in the Sacramento region, and we simply have not had the time to dedicate to BDoG. We hope you will support our growing work and would like to provide a glimpse into all that we have going on:
- Our CalFresh at Farmers’ Markets Program has grown by leaps and bounds, setting new records each year. In 2021, we distributed $800,000 to be spent at local farmers’ markets ($500k in CalFresh/EBT and $300k in Market Match).
- The first quarter of 2022 is already far outpacing the first quarter of 2021. January through March is normally one of the slowest times of year, but we have already distributed $249,345 in combined CalFresh and Market Match this year. That means that one of the slowest quarters of the 2022 has already distributed 31% of 2021’s total distribution.
- We are set to facilitate CalFresh at a new market this year starting on May 1: the NeighborWorks Sacramento Community Farmers Market-Oak Park (aka the Oak Park Farmers’ Market).
- We are proud to partner with NextGen California to co-sponsor Senate Bill 907, the Local Equitable Access to Food (LEAF) bill authored by Senator Dr. Richard Pan. This bill would provide reliable state funding in order to ensure that every certified farmers’ market and tribal-run farmers’ market in California can provide high-quality, equitable CalFresh/EBT access to its community. The funding would make every California farmers’ market into a source of nutritious, locally-grown food for the most financially vulnerable Californians and would provide a strong incentive to open up new farmers’ markets in under-served, low income food deserts. This legislation is Alchemist’s baby and is demanding on our time this year, but is on the right track and recently passed on unanimous consent in the Senate Human Services Committee on March 29.
- Late last year, we learned that the California Department of Parks and Recreation would be awarding us a grant of $694,295 to purchase and develop the Oak Park Art Garden into the thriving community space and urban orchard it is meant to be. The competitive grant is funded by the fourth and final round of the Prop 68 Statewide Park Program (SPP). While the application process for this grant was demanding, we are now tasked with executing on our proposal and setting construction in motion.
- While planning and paperwork are in process for the big Oak Park Art Garden construction project, we were awarded a $10,000 SMUD Shine grant for 2021 to construct “The Friendliest Bus Stop in Town” at the Art Garden. Built entirely on Art Garden property, this project will provide seating, a shade structure, little free pantry and library, bike dock, bike repair station, and a solar-powered kiosk which provides phone-charging, WiFi hotspot, and illumination at night. Our partners at Northern California Construction Training have tackled the construction for this project and it is nearing completion. We hope this project will inspire landowners alongside other bus stops to find ways to provide amenities and make public transit more hospitable around the region.
- After years of work, the Pansy Avenue Community Garden Park has finally broken ground and construction is underway! This park and community garden is on track to open this year and progress is now visible.
- The Oak Park Sol Community Garden is experiencing a renaissance with renewed leadership and organizing efforts that are putting the “community” back into “community garden”. While many gardeners have done a great job of caring for their own plots in recent years, we are thrilled to see renewed commitment to shared upkeep of the common spaces at the garden and are so happy to welcome several new gardeners from the neighborhood.
- Alchemist is contracted to manage the huge new City-owned community garden at Mirasol Village. Although the bulk of the housing at Mirasol Village will not yet be open, we hosted the garden’s opening event on Saturday, April 23. Because most residents will be moving in to the complex later in the year, we will have extra responsibility tending the many large garden plots and growing food to donate until more plots are taken next year. If you are interested in a plot, let us know!
- Starting in 2020, we helped organize and supply multiple pop-up cooling stations around the region during heat waves. By connecting resources with volunteers, we help residents to host shady places for passerby to rest and hydrate during dangerously hot weather. We will be doing this work this summer as well.
- We continue to run two cohorts of Alchemist Microenteprise Academy each year and are presently in the middle of our sixth cohort. In the first 5 cohorts, we trained 114 low-income or otherwise under-served entrepreneurs with the fundamentals for starting and running a successful small food business.
- The Alchemist Kitchen Incubator Program now has 18 business in incubation! These 18 businesses all receive dedicated personal attention, mentorship, and technical assistance as they start and scale up their food businesses. Despite the incubator program being just 2 years old, we have seen many participants win scholarships and grants, get their products on the shelves of local stores, start selling at farmers’ markets and to local restaurants, and more!
- Recognizing that the food entrepreneurs in our program needed affordable, rentable commercial kitchen space in order to have a chance at success, we launched our own commissary kitchen last May. Our incubator kitchen in North Sacramento includes a well-equipped commercial kitchen, shared office space, cold storage, and dry storage. The kitchen currently serves 18 businesses as monthly members and another 8 as regular users. Through a Sacramento County Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) grant and inclusion in The Sacramento Bee’s annual Book of Dreams, we were recently able to secure thousands of dollars for the purchase of new kitchen equipment that helps our incubator businesses to scale up operations and become more efficient.
- Early in the pandemic, Alchemist volunteered to serve as the fiscal sponsor for Community Connections 95820, a collaborative effort between local schools and non-profits that identified the most vulnerable families in zip code 95820 and provided them with direct aid that could not be secured through other means. Our connection to this program has grown, as we have helped coordinate additional staffing, and have seen the project secure significant grant funding to help it finish strong over the next year.
- As many community gleaning groups went on standby during the pandemic, find out farms in South Oak Park sought to help fill the gap by coordinating community fruit gleaning volunteers. We have served as the fiscal sponsor for their Community Fruit Program since its launch, allowing the program to receive grants, donations, and volunteer assistance. In 2021, Community Fruit Program harvested 5,000 pounds of produce from Sacramento fruit trees and directed it to vulnerable households through Community Connections 95820, River City Food Bank, pop-up distributions, and more. As Community Fruit works toward incorporating as their own 501(c)3, we are happy to partner in the meantime and help make this great work possible.
- The Green Restaurant Alliance of Sacramento (GRAS) is known for their incredible program picking up organic waste from local restaurants and redirecting it to compost piles rather than the landfill. When an opportunity arose for GRAS to be contracted by the County of Sacramento to provide educational composting workshops to the community, Alchemist was able to fiscally sponsor the program and allow it to move forward, helping more Sacramento County residents learn to compost their food scraps in order to grow their own food and reduce climate emissions.
- Based on the experiences listed above, we are currently developing a Community Initiatives program that will help train and incubate community groups to launch grassroots efforts addressing community needs. By combining a clear curriculum on non-profit work with fiscal sponsorship and technical assistance, we look forward to launching this program within the next two years to help empower residents to do good work in their own communities.
Alchemist Public Market
If you aren’t already familiar with Alchemist Public Market (APM), we recommend you visit the project website for a full overview. Alchemist Public Market is our biggest project ever, to be built in Sacramento’s River District just a block away from the Mirasol Village project.
When complete, APM will provide under-served entrepreneurs with unique opportunities to launch their businesses. It will also provide workforce development for Sacramentans with high barriers to employment, create an attractive and energetic community gathering place, and provide low-income neighbors with access to quality food and produce from local sellers. This will be accomplished through the creation of an all-electric campus with: an affordable commercial kitchen space; eight “food pods” surrounding a shared courtyard in which food businesses can launch and scale up; a social enterprise café operated by partner organization, NorCal Resist; a retail store featuring products from Sacramento’s small manufacturing businesses; a co-working office; and a weekly farmers’ market.
We have secured roughly $1 million in contributions toward this $8 million project, including monetary grants and in-kind architectural and legal services and are pursuing major federal and state grants at present. Thanks to the work of Assemblymember Kevin McCarty and Senator Dr. Richard Pan, we were awarded $450,000 in California SB170 community reinvestment dollars which will allow us to secure the property for this project and provide us with the time we need to complete the funding.
After reading this non-exhaustive list of what we are up to at Alchemist CDC, we hope you will consider our work worthy of your support. While some of the dollar amounts mentioned for major project grants are quite large, your individual contribution is essential to our work. Many of these major grants are one-time funding opportunities meant to help construct a major project or cover specific equipment costs. Our actual operations–the work that our staff does day in and day out in order to serve the community and to secure these large grants–is difficult to fund and depends heavily on individual supporters like you. Your gift of any amount is a catalyst that helps us to do even more work to connect communities to land, food, and opportunity.
We are honored and grateful to receive your support! You can give now at Big Day of Giving.