Birch Community Services works to stabilize families on the brink of financial crises. One of their programs connects families in need with rescued groceries that would otherwise be disposed. A new refrigerated truck will help the nonprofit redistribute 6.5 million pounds of high-quality food every year, helping struggling families and rescuing food that would otherwise go to a landfill. The purchase of the truck is made possible by a Metro Investment and Innovation grant. These grants fund creative ways to reduce waste through prevention efforts, reuse, repair, recycling and composting.

This year, Metro will invest $2 million in Investment and Innovation grants, funding 22 projects throughout greater Portland. These grants also generated $598,400 in matching funds raised by six businesses who applied for funding. “Despite the impacts of the continuing pandemic, local organizations and businesses are generating creative ways to reduce waste,” said Marta McGuire, director of waste prevention and environmental services at Metro. “The Investment and Innovation grants support small and emerging organizations with big ideas.”

All successful grantees incorporated racial equity into their proposals. This includes efforts to reach marginalized communities through expanded services, training and employment opportunities or reduced harms from garbage and recycling operations. Grantees were selected from the recommendations of two review committees, ensuring that projects would reduce waste and were based on community and local government input. Metro received 63 applications, asking for a total of $6.6 million in funding this grant cycle.

The Investment and Innovation grant program has two types of grants: capital grants and program grants. Capital grants are intended for infrastructure upgrades and equipment. Program grants can be used to support staffing needs, operation costs and supplies. Some of the highlights of this years’ grant cycle include:

  • Lovett Deconstruction will add an electric kiln and warehouse improvements to its new facility in northwest Portland. The wood kiln will drastically reduce mold and moisture collected on stored lumber, improving the quality and reusability of deconstructed materials.
  • A new tool library will be established in east Portland, creating a community resource where people can borrow tools instead of buying and disposing of them. The library will serve an area where nearly half the residents have low incomes and over a third identify as Black, Indigenous or people of color.
  • The west side of greater Portland will have better access to electronics reuse and recycling as Free Geek expands to a second drop off location. The grant will enable the organization to take larger quantities of printers, monitors and vintage technology, to repair for those in need of affordable technology.
  • A number of this years’ applicants asked for funding to increase capacity to repair items otherwise bound for disposal. This includes the nonprofit Cracked Pots, which gleans from Metro Central transfer station; Repair PDX, which will pilot a new effort to fix and redistribute small appliances; and JD’s Shoe Repair business, which will help train the next generation of cobblers.
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