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New Leaf Community Markets Puts Community First

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 Community Markets has donated nearly $2 million to local groups supporting these issues since 1985, including the Homeless Garden Project, Walnut Avenue Family & Women’s Center, Grey Bears, Teen Kitchen Project, and more.

New Leaf Community Markets’ core community programs include Envirotokens, Senior Discount Days, Neighbor Rewards, Lend a Hand, college food pantry support, and financial donations and food drives.

Envirotokens: Launched in 1993, the Envirotoken program thanks customers for shopping with reusable grocery bags at any New Leaf Community Markets 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.  To help reduce contact due to COVID-19, and to protect employees and customers alike, New Leaf Community Markets has paused the distribution of Envirotokens to customers using reusable bags, but donations to the community partners have continued. “When it’s safe to hand out tokens again, we will. But in the meantime, New Leaf Community Markets feels strongly about supporting our community partners through this difficult time, so Envirotokens donations have, and will continue.” said Robin Nardello, New Leaf Community Markets, Community Relations Specialist. 

“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 $900,000 to local groups and close to 10 million bags have been reused. 

Neighbor Rewards: By earning a point for every dollar spent at New Leaf, and double for wellness & body care purchases. Customers who share in the grocer’s commitment to nourish the community can earn money back for either a future shopping trip or to donate to a local organization, like Second Harvest Food Bank Santa Cruz County through the new Gift It! feature as a Neighbor Rewards member.

Senior Discount Days: Every day, New Leaf customers who are 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

In 2018, New Leaf developed partnerships with UC Santa Cruz and Cabrillo College to support students, through the opening of 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.  Due to the shelter in place orders, campus closures and distanced learning, the college pantries have had to find new ways of supporting their students in need.  New Leaf Community Markets has helped by providing financial support, donations of goods, and gift cards to distribute to hungry students in need.  

New Leaf has also started carrying face masks, with a portion of the sale of each mask benefitting local organizations, such as the Santa Cruz City Schools Nutrition Services, who have continued to help feed hungry families through campus closures and into the summer.

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 Community Markets plans to be an integral part of its communities in the decades to come.

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At Edible Monterey Bay, our mission is to celebrate the local food cultures of Santa Cruz, San Benito and Monterey Counties, season by season.