Second Harvest Gets $3M from MacKenzie Scott’s Multibillion Giving Campaign

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Second Harvest Food Bank of the Mahoning Valley has received a $3 million gift from MacKenzie Scott, part of the author and philanthropist’s $4.1 billion in giving over the past four months.

Scott announced her donations during the pandemic in a post on Medium Tuesday. Giving focused on organizations that have strong leadership and “low access to philanthropic capital” along with serving community with high food insecurity, racial inequity and poverty rates.

“We are thrilled to have been brought to her attention as one such organization,” said Second Harvest director Mike Iberis in a statement. “From our more than 150 community partners and food donors to all the individuals, businesses and foundation that support us with financial contributions at every level, we should all feel proud to receive this national and international recognition.”

On Tuesday afternoon, before the gift was publicly announced, Iberis said demand at Second Harvest was up 40% over 2019, driven by the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting economic fallout.

“The philanthropic investment from MacKenzie Scott will be an accelerator and amplifier as we work toward the goal of ending hunger in the Mahoning Valley,” he said in a statement. “With this investment and the continued generosity of our community, together we can end hunger.”

The food bank’s first priority will be addressing capital improvements among Second Harvest’s 150 local partner agencies, enabling the organizations to distribute more food. All funds will stay in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties.

In her post on Medium, Scott described the coronavirus pandemic as “a wrecking ball in the lives of Americans already struggling,” and noted is has been worse for women, people of color and those living in poverty.

“Meanwhile,” she wrote, “it has substantially increased the wealth of billionaires.”

After donating $1.68 billion to 116 nonprofits, universities, community development groups and legal organizations last July, Scott asked a team of advisers to help her “accelerate” her 2020 giving with immediate help to those financially gutted by the pandemic.

She said the team used a data-driven approach, identifying organizations with strong leadership and results, specifically in communities with high food insecurity, racial inequity and poverty rates, “and low access to philanthropic capital.”

Scott and her team started with 6,490 organizations, researched 822 and put 438 “on hold for now,” waiting for more details about their impact, management and how they treat employees or community members.

In total, 384 organizations in 50 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., will share $4,158,500,000 in gifts, including food banks, emergency relief funds “and support services for those most vulnerable.” Other organizations address “long-term systemic inequities that have been deepened by the crisis,” such as debt relief, employment training, credit and financial services for under-resourced communities and education for historically marginalized and underserved people. The money will also support legal defense funds “that take on institutional discrimination.”

Scott noted that she was “far from completing” her giving pledge, and urged others to follow her lead in whatever way they could: time, a voice or money.

Scott is a graduate of Princeton University and author of “The Testing of Luther Albright” and “Traps.” She married Amazon founder Jeff Bezos in 1994. The couple divorced in 2019.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.