Originally published Friday, May 21st 2021
Can You Believe How Far We’ve Come?
The LittleJohn Produce Box Project is 1 year old today! It was on May 21st, 2020 that we officially went from a side hustle with a mission to the real deal by applying to be a 501(c)(3) non-profit. Crazy how time flies, right?
Birthdays are a time of reflection. As we think back, we are amazed at what’s happened in the last year. Because of all of you, we’ve come a long way. It all started with our founder, Alexandra LittleJohn, selling restaurant produce boxes to make ends meet after she lost her job during the pandemic. Since then we’ve grown to a full-time team with countless volunteers backing us up. We are a project born out of the pandemic. Yet as we think forward, we have no desire to slow down anytime soon. Our dreams are big, but our focus is local.
It’s impossible to do last year justice and thank all the people that deserve it in a single blog post. But we are going to give it our best shot! And while we don’t know the future, we’ve got big plans we are excited to share with you. So stick around.
A Little Humble Bragging
In the last year, The LittleJohn Produce Box Project sold over 7,500 produce boxes! But we are even more proud to say that we’ve given away more than 8,000 boxes to people in need.
Throughout the year we’ve donated food and clothes to Title 1 schools. We’ve helped hospitality workers who’ve lost their jobs, and we’ve given food to vaccination sites to encourage vaccine participation. And we were even featured on Good Morning America and The Washington Post! Pretty cool, right?
One of our defining moments as an organization happened in the fall of 2020. We received two grants from the City of Thornton, totaling over $130,000. In just three weeks, we were able to[give away over 4,000 produce boxes to Thorton residents affected by the pandemic. The community rallied behind us to make it happen, and it was inspiring!
Our produce boxes expanded to include other essential groceries like bread, eggs, cheese, microgreens, mushrooms, and more recently, meat. These new items come from our amazing partners, including Cheese Importers, Rebel Bread, Elita, Sweetlife Microgreens, and Elevated Mushrooms.
We’ve even expanded our reach and impact. We now support multiple communities with pickup and delivery locations in not just Denver but also Longmont, Boulder, and recently Fort Collins.
Most businesses fail in the first year. But we are proud to say we are not going anywhere. Not only are we still around, but we’ve also created a sustainable organization that’s been able to hire three part-time employees!
“It’s 100% possible to pay people well and do good by people. And that’s really cool.” — Alexandra LittleJohn
We’re fortunate to have an incredible community of businesses and organizations behind us. Oatly and Torani donated countless boxes to hospitality workers. Local coffee shops have freely given up space and refrigeration to us for pick-up locations. Local businesses have not only provided high-quality products, but they have become close partners in our mission.
Then there are the people. We especially owe a big thanks to Claire Cox, Maegan Harmen, Matt Hart, Alayna George, Gabriel Konkle, Kelsey Verdier, and Kate Kalstein. And we know we wouldn’t be anywhere without the numerous volunteers helping us pack boxes, deliver food, and work farmers’ markets. We appreciate all of you!
But at the end of the day, we never could have accomplished any of this without our amazing customers and supporters. You bought boxes. You made donations. You got the word out. And when we’ve asked for help, you’re always there. This amazing community continues to wow us. Thank you so much!
Plans for the Future
While the pandemic may have shone a light on issues in our food system, those problems aren’t going anywhere. And neither are we. As we think about the next year, we are going to continue to provide boxes to those who need them with our “no questions asked” policy. But we want to do more. Alexandra’s vision is to continue to “focus on the people left behind.” For example, we are currently working on grants to fund programs to help alleviate pressure on school food programs. We know there are gaps in the system, and we want to help.
“Seeing people crying because they are so grateful. Or making them smile because you’re dancing while you give out their bread and eggs. The community really needed that when the pandemic started. And I still think that is a need.” — Alexandra LittleJohn
So what’s next? We are looking to get our own facility. That will allow us the ability to store more food, easily accept donations, and even pack our produce boxes ourselves. All of this means we can keep prices low, donate more food, and create jobs. We’d love to employ adults with disabilities to help them earn money, build their resumes, and gain valuable skills.
And with food at the center of everything we do, we want to make cooking more accessible — so plan on seeing more cooking how-to’s on our blog and social media! It is affordable, simple, and delicious to cook with fresh produce instead of processed foods. And we want to share that know-how. You may even see us teach classes for students and members of the community out of our own commissary kitchen.
As for the produce boxes you love, they will just get better! You can expect more choices and more convenience in the future. As people head back to work and life gets busier, we want your LittleJohn produce box to give you all your grocery essentials. Who knows? Maybe there will be pre-made meal options and dried goods options in the future!
Help Us Get There
As we think about the next 12 months, we know we’ll need to continue to rely on this community. So we’ve got a few “asks” to help us achieve those dreams:
- If you’re able to, please become a Sustaining Community Member by donating $15 every month. You’ll get access to our community cookbook and our upcoming cocktail cookbook! And that’s not all. You’ll also get early access to pre-sale on special items, discounts, and more. Just add the membership when you go to order your next produce box. Your donation helps us continue to support those in need.
- If you’re willing to volunteer your time at a farmers market, become a driver, suggest a business with a giveback program, or you just want to help get the word out, please email email@example.com. You might even get a free produce box for lending a hand!
- Please support us through a donation to our GoFundMe. The money donated there will go directly towards helping us get our own facility!
"It's not how much we make, but what we make and who we serve.” — Alexandra LittleJohn
Thank you all again for all your support! Cheers to what’s next!