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Hannah Jones

Food Well Alliance, Westside Future Fund reflect on first year of 970 Jefferson

970 Jefferson — a hub for food-based collaboration — opened its doors in 2021. (Photo courtesy of Food Well Alliance.)

By Hannah E. Jones

With about 25 percent of Atlanta residents living more than half a mile away from fresh food, the Food Well Alliance (FWA) and Westside Future Fund (WFF) envisioned creating an affordable space for like-minded organizations to work alongside each other in the Westside. Together, the teams established 970 Jefferson St. NW — a hub of collaboration and food innovation with 19 nonprofits and local businesses under one roof. The space’s doors opened in the fall of 2021 and, now in its second year, the two leadership teams are reflecting on its impact. 

In 2019, FWA and WFF teamed up to purchase the warehouse and office space at 970 Jefferson, the former home of the Atlanta Community Food Bank. The space serves as a physical embodiment of the two nonprofit’s missions, with WFF’s commitment to revitalizing the Westside and FWA working to foster an equitable, local food ecosystem.

An Urban Recipe co-op member helps prepare food for distribution at the 970 Warehouse. (Photo courtesy of the Food Well Alliance.)

“[The building offers] a place to execute our mission in the [Westside] neighborhood,” WFF President and CEO John Ahmann said. “The other [benefit] is our offices do more than just serve us. Primarily, we want this building to be of service to the community. We want [WFF] to be a caboose to a long train.”

In its first year, the resident nonprofits distributed 1.9 million pounds of food into the community — roughly 1.5 million meals. Additionally, the nonprofits and businesses sold 725,000 pounds of fresh produce within a 30-mile radius.

Many of the tenants are food-focused nonprofits, others are geared toward other aspects of community improvement and some are local small businesses. The tenants include: 

  • Atlanta BeltLine Partnership
  • Atlanta Mission
  • Communities Coming Together
  • Community Farmers Markets – Fresh MARTA Market
  • eightvillage
  • Farmers Jam
  • Gangstas to Growers
  • Georgia Peach Truck
  • The Giving Kitchen
  • Hands on Atlanta
  • Invest Atlanta
  • PCs for People
  • Retaaza
  • Second Helpings Atlanta
  • Tropical Express
  • Umi Feeds
  • Urban Recipe

The FWA and WFF teams are proud of the first year’s collaborations and outcomes. As operations continue, though, they will be able to better contextualize and measure the collective impact at 970 Jefferson. 

“[It will] be interesting to see how it grows,” FWA Executive Director Kate Conner said. “By talking to different organizations, I know they’ve been able to greatly increase their capacity by moving into 970. Anecdotally, I know there’s an increase. But we’re excited to track [the growth].”

A recent Transform Westside Summit showcased its headquarters at 970 Jefferson. (L to R) John Ahmann, Tameka Askew, Rachel Carey, Charles Forde and Raquel Hudson. (Photo by Maria Saporta.)

Based in the city’s Westside, the folks at 970 Jefferson are focused on serving the nearby communities — a historically underserved area. With increased food insecurity during the height of the pandemic, WFF Director of Real Estate Finance Charles Forde said the community viewed the space as an asset to turn to.

“Being in a food desert, we only have so many food options,” Forde said. “But having something like this, especially during COVID — and looking back at the amount of food distributed — you will see that the community definitely saw us as a critical resource.”

During the pandemic, FWA and WFF renovated the space to make it operational, and by the fall of 2021, the building was fully leased. The primary funders were the James M. Cox Foundation, the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation and the Truist Foundation.

(L to R) Food Well Alliance Senior Manager of Community Gardens Fred Conrad, Executive Director Kate Conner and Board Chair Bill Bolling at the 2022 Fruit Tree Sale. (Photo by Kelly Jordan.)

In addition to a warehouse and office spaces, the building hosts community events — like Urban Recipe’s Winter Wellness Event or Second Helpings’ Thanksgiving Turkey Giveaway — while also providing a space for local organizations to convene for private meetings.

“[970 Jefferson] is meant to connect people and provide a place for community members,” Conner said. “We want to be accessible. We can handle a turkey distribution for 1,000 people in our parking lot — we get real creative.”

Much like helping a neighbor in need, these local groups can combine efforts and resources to achieve shared goals. By coming together in a mutual space, the nonprofits and small businesses are able to be more efficient in day-to-day operations by sharing knowledge, technology and storage space. 

Food co-op Urban Recipe donates nonperishable foods to expand the selections at Fresh MARTA Markets, for example. The for-profit Georgia Peach Truck also gives surplus fruit to Second Helpings, Urban Recipe and Fresh MARTA Market. 

Conner believes that close proximity is paramount for fostering many of these partnerships.

“Aside from the physical space, there’s a ton of synergy happening,” Conner said. “Without a doubt, being together, seeing each other’s operations, talking to each other at lunch — I mean, there’s something real there. In terms of collaboration, it’s easy.”

She added: “It’s inspiring to be around people doing this work every day. That’s an untold benefit and something you can’t quantify.”

Now in the second year of 970 Jefferson, the leadership teams at WFF and FWA are focused on finding more ways to improve operations, increase community impact and make more space at the table for local stakeholders.

“We’re in learning mode,” Ahmann said. “This is a sizable facility, so we’re looking at ways to activate the building to help serve the community.”


Note:  On February 11, SaportaReport photojournalist Kelly Jordan visited the Food Well Alliance Fruit Tree Sale at 970 Jefferson.  See his photos from this fun and educational day here!

Hannah E. Jones

Hannah Jones is an Atlanta native and Georgia State University graduate, with a major in journalism and minor in public policy. She began studying journalism in high school and has since served as a reporter and editor for two newspapers. Hannah managed the Arts and Living section of The Signal, Georgia State’s independent award-winning newspaper. She has a passion for environmental issues, urban life and telling a good story. Hannah can be reached at hannah@saportareport.com.


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