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October 26, 2021
 
Off Their Plate Gets $300K to Aid Restaurants, People in Need
Off Their Plate

August 29, 2021 — Off Their Plate, a Boston-based nonprofit founded in response to the coronavirus pandemic outbreak in Massachusetts, which helps local kitchens led by women and people of color feed their communities, recently was awarded $300,000 to support restaurants that are donating meals to community centers.

Serrena Iyer, head of development for Off Their Plate (OTP), said that since the organization is run by volunteers and has no overhead, 100% of the new grant will to funding operations.

“We are really grateful that KKR has dedicated time and resources to running a strong grant-giving program, and moreover, that they are willing to work with young, entrepreneurial non-profits like Off Their Plate,” she said. “The trust and support of a firm like KKR will not only help us grow, but also hopefully inspire other communities to consider starting their own non-profits, using our unique volunteer-only model.”

The KKR grant was one of four, totaling $1.7 million, that the investment firm made to Massachusetts nonprofit in the last year. Also receiving grants were ImmigrationHelp.org, Peace First, and Year Up.

In the 18 months since OTR was established, it has raised $8.3 million, which has funded 830,000 means and supported 27,000 hours of staff worker time at restaurants that prepare meals for community centers. The new grant will fund 30,000 meals and support 10,000 hours of employment.

OTP started in Boston to help restaurants hire back employees to prepare for distribution to frontline health care workers. It has since expanded to Baltimore, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, DC. After a few months it shifted its focus from donating meals to frontline workers to serving community centers with food insecure populations.

Iyer said OTP originally intended to cease operating after the early months of COVID-19, but continued and expanded operations when it found that “it really struck a chord with people,” which, she said, related to its unique volunteer-only operating model, pairing food preparers with people living nearby who are in need; and supporting women- and minority-owned restaurants.

“Data around PPP loans and survivorship during COVD-19 proved how important it is to step up and support these small businesses, whom we have seen become beacons of hope and friendship in their community when they work with us and donate meals,” Iyer said. “As a result of all of this, we decided to continue operating in perpetuity, beyond just COVID-19, although that is obviously still a pressing issue. We also now only focus on serving community centers like homeless shelters or women’s shelters.”

Key to OTP’s operations is engaging volunteers, many of whom work in healthcare, entertainment, tech, finance, education, startups, and other industries.

“We offer volunteers the ability to volunteer in a truly impactful way, not just donating a few hours a week but really building something far-reaching,” Iyer explained. “We also allow them to use their skills to help. We have engineers volunteering to automate our systems and data, graphic designers and writers working on our outreach and education materials, business execs working on operations, etc.”

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