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Pew awarded $3.25M to tech-enabled nonprofits supporting access to college and food security

Heights Philadelphia and Sharing Excess will use the grants to expand their reach in college and career readiness, and in tech-enabled food access, respectively.

The Sharing Excess app. (Courtesy image)

Two local nonprofits are getting an influx of funding from Pew Charitable Trusts to support their work to increase Philadelphians’ access to college and food security.

The poverty alleviation-focused Pew Fund for Health and Human Services awarded $3.25 million on Wednesday to Heights Philadelphia and Sharing Excess. Pew Fund Program Director Kristin Romens said the two organizations selected address “critical” issues that improve Philadelphia residents’ lives.

Funding college access

The first organization, Heights Philadelphia, will receive $3 million over the next five years to expand its efforts to connect low-income students with programming and support as they pursue higher education. The program seeks to work with Black, Latinx and first-generation students, and was formed last year amid the merger of Steppingstone Scholars and Philadelphia Futures, two orgs that ran college access programs.

“Heights Philadelphia helps students succeed in high school, college and their careers,” Romens said in a statement. “By increasing its reach and continuously improving its effectiveness, the organization will ensure that thousands of young people have access to opportunities, while positively impacting Philadelphia in the future.”

With the grant, Heights will aim to serve 5,000 students and launch an evaluation of its program model. It will also look for expanded revenue streams and partners, and implement a DEI plan throughout the organization.

Heights also received a $1 million commitment from Comcast in February.

Funding food access through tech

The second organization, Sharing Excess, uses technology to recover and redistribute perishable food throughout the greater Philadelphia region. You might recognize the name from October’s “avogeddon” giveaway at FDR Park.

Its $250,000 grant will allow the organization to increase its food rescue from 13 million pounds to 20 million pounds annually, while building on its mobile platform’s capabilities and its accessibility.

Co-founder and CEO Evan Ehlers told he started the org in 2018 as a Drexel University student with leftover meal swipes. He realized the issue of food waste was much larger than what he was experiencing as a college student on campus.

“I saw how much food is wasted across the US — about 40% of all food in the US — and a lot of that comes from logistical barriers of getting food to the people who need it,” Ehlers said.

Ehlers began distribution of food using his grandma’s car around the city, but he realized quickly that the logistical process “needed more than Google Sheets.” Today, the organization has a platform built by a collection of Drexel co-ops, and it partners with more than 185 food businesses to deliver perishable food to 300 nonprofits, food banks and community organizations.

Romens said the venture grant to Sharing Excess supports the org’s “scalable approach” to redistributing food that would go to waste and “reduces food insecurity in the region.”

Companies: Pew Charitable Trusts

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