From its early days in 1985 as a small co-op on the Westside of Santa Cruz, to five neighborhood grocery stores along the Central Coast today, New Leaf Community Markets has remained true to its mission: to nourish and sustain the community.
New Leaf has achieved this by offering customers quality, natural and organic foods that benefit their health and the health of the environment; educating the community about healthful lifestyle choices; providing financial and in-kind support to local nonprofits; valuing and rewarding staff; and supporting local farmers, ranchers, fishermen and producers.
“Serving the community is at the heart of everything we do,” says Forrest Gonsiewski, vice president of New Leaf Community Markets. “It starts with supporting our staff who live and work in our neighborhoods, and partnering with local producers to provide our customers with sustainably sourced natural food, so we can together invest resources back into our community programs and the environment.”
The first grocer in California to achieve B Corporation certification, New Leaf uses the power of business to solve local social and economic challenges. The company donates 10% of after-tax profits to local nonprofits, focusing its support on organizations working in three areas: hunger relief, education and environmental stewardship.
In addition to volunteering, fundraising and in-kind giving, New Leaf has donated nearly $2 million to local groups supporting these issues since 1985, including the Santa Cruz Cancer Benefit Group, Homeless Garden Project, Save Our Shores, Ecology Action, Walnut Avenue Family & Women’s Center and more.
New Leaf Community Markets’ core community programs include Envirotokens, Smart Giving, Senior Discount Days, Neighbor Rewards, Lend a Hand, college food pantry support, and financial donations and food drives.
Envirotokens: Launched in 1993, Envirotokensthanks customers shopping with reuseable grocery bags at any New Leaf location with a 10¢ token to donate to one of six local nonprofit beneficiaries nominated by the community every six months.Each month, New Leaf counts the tokens, converts them to cash, and sends the donations to the beneficiaries.
“The New Leaf Envirotoken program directly benefits Native Animal Rescue by funding up to 10% of our annual operating costs; that’s a significant amount to a small nonprofit,” says Lisa Rose, development director for Native Animal Rescue, a current Envirotoken recipient. “In addition to the financial support, the aim of the program—to reduce environmental waste—benefits the native animals that we serve. We think of the program as a win-win-win: good for the environment, good for New Leaf, and good for Native Animal Rescue.”
Since the program began, New Leaf Community Markets has donated more than $845,000 to local groups and more than 8 million bags have been reused.
Smart Giving: Since 2006,New Leaf Community Markets and Smart Chicken have partnered with New Leaf customers to donate more than 25 tons of nutritious Smart Chicken poultry to Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Cruz County, making well over half a million meals. For every 10 pounds of Smart Chicken purchased by New Leaf customers during November of each year, the food bank receives one pound of the poultry.
“The continued partnership with New Leaf Community Markets, Smart Chicken, county residents and Second Harvest Food Bank works to combat hunger in our community,” says Willy Elliott-McCrea, CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Cruz County. “The Smart Chicken donation provides quality, lean proteins to our county’s most vulnerable. Smart Chicken, in combination with fresh, locally-sourced produce, provides a complete, healthy meal for thousands of people in Santa Cruz County each year. Together, we are creating a thriving community.”
Neighbor Rewards: This program rewards New Leaf customers who share in the grocer’s commitment to nourish the community and sustain the environmentwithpoints that put money back in their pockets.
Senior Discount Days: On Wednesdays, New Leaf customers 65-and-better receive a 10% discount on their purchase with a discount card.
Lend a Hand: New Leaf honors their staff’s commitment to doing more in their community. Each year, New Leaf gives every team member up to eight hours of paid time off to volunteer for local nonprofits.
College Food Pantry Support: New Leaf Community Markets Put Community FirstIn 2018, New Leaf developed partnerships with UC Santa Cruz and Cabrillo College to support students through recently opened food pantries. With colleges across the country reporting 40% of college students as “food insecure,” campuses are developing food pantries and resource spots where students can get much-needed food.
At UC Santa Cruz, New Leaf sponsors the Food Pantry and Coffee Shop Café, offering students a place to grab a bite to eat, study or just relax with fellow students on the Cowell campus. In addition to the food provided by on-campus cafeterias and cafés, the campus farm, Cal Fresh and Second Harvest Food Bank, New Leaf has provided food items, supplements, body care products and equipment.
Cabrillo College’s pantry and resource spots in Aptos and Watsonville are also sponsored by New Leaf, with donations of food, body care products and shelving, alongside support from Cal Fresh and Second Harvest Food Bank.
“When I met with both schools, I was taken aback by the number of students who are food insecure. We had to find a way to support them,” says New Leaf’s Community Relations Specialist Robin Nardello. “It’s hard work staying on top of your studies, and even harder when you’re worried about where your next meal is coming from. New Leaf Community Markets is excited to support the work both campuses are doing to provide their students with all of the tools they need to achieve success.”
Community involvement and support continues to be part of New Leaf’s mission as it nears 35 years of serving the Central Coast. With programs like these in place, New Leaf Markets plans to be an integral part of its communities in the decades to come.