Whole Foods Market announced today that it has created Whole Cities Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting efforts to increase access to nutritious, fresh food and health education in underserved communities.

By building collaborative partnerships with community organizations that are poised to make significant impact in their neighborhoods, Whole Cities Foundation aims to help improve individual and overall community health and wellness in the U.S. 

“Providing fresh, healthy food has been a driving force at Whole Foods Market for 35 years, and as we’ve continued to expand, it’s become increasingly clear that there is a real and immediate need for more healthy choices and educational resources in underserved communities,” said Walter Robb, Whole Foods Market co-CEO and Whole Cities Foundation board chairman. “We founded Whole Cities Foundation to create solutions together with like-minded local partner organizations that will have a meaningful and lasting impact on health and wellness in the communities we serve.”

The Foundation is an expression of the company’s core values– serve and support local and global communities and promote the health of stakeholders through healthy eating education— in action and will complement the work of Whole Foods Market‘s individual store teams by providing additional resources for team members, customers, partner organizations and communities that are separate from the company’s for-profit business. 

It will be led by Executive Director Meredith Smith, who brings more than two decades of experience in nonprofit leadership and public health, and a deep passion for healthy food access and public service. Smith will work to co-create the long-term vision of Whole Cities Foundation, establish grant programs, and develop integrated community health outreach models with partner organizations in key markets throughout the country.  Whole Foods Market confirmed it will commit $1 million in seed funding to inaugurate the Foundation.

Whole Cities Foundation was announced at the grand opening of Whole Foods Market’s third New Orleans store, located inside the ReFresh Project, a 60,000-square-foot development that aims to stimulate growth in New Orleans’ Broad Street commercial corridor and to improve access to fresh, high-quality food and health-related programs in the community.

The Foundation’s first collaborative partnership will be with the ReFresh Project, which was recently cited by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation as one of the most promising models for eliminating barriers to nutritious foods, revitalizing neighborhoods and building healthier communities.  The Foundation has committed $100,000 to ReFresh’s Community Health Outreach Program and will work hand-in-hand with ReFresh, Tulane’s Prevention Research Center and other ReFresh partners on developing, piloting and evaluating the program, including the training and launching of community health workers.

“By collaborating with, supporting and learning from our dedicated community partners who are engaged in building healthy communities where nutritious food is accessible to everyone, Whole Cities Foundation will be able to develop models for community health and wellness that can help serve cities across the U.S.,” Smith said. “We are excited to launch the Foundation by initiating and piloting programs in New Orleans, a vibrant city that is committed to being healthier and investing in educational resources that will help bring lasting change.”

The partnership with ReFresh will complement the work of Whole Kids Foundation™, which has funded 59 salad bars and eight gardens at schools in the New Orleans area to date.  To celebrate today’s Broad St. store opening, Whole Kids Foundation awarded a garden grant to nearby KIPP Central City Elementary School.

Whole Cities Foundation is based in Austin, Texas, and operates as an independent, nonprofit organization with its own board of directors: Walter Robb, chairman of the board, Scott Allshouse, president of Whole Foods Market’s Mid-Atlantic Region; Nona Evans, executive director of Whole Kids Foundation; Glenda Flanagan, chief financial officer for Whole Foods Market; and Betsy Foster, global vice president of Growth & Business Development for Whole Foods Market. Whole Cities Foundation is Whole Foods Market’s third nonprofit, with Whole Kids Foundation being founded in 2011, and Whole Planet Foundation in 2005.

For more information on the Foundation, please visit wholefoodsmarket.com/whole-cities-foundation or email whole.cities@wholefoods.com.

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