Saffron Women’s Trust Foundation works to break the cycle of generational poverty by helping women find the stability they need to survive. In the past few years, that has included ready-to-eat meals from The Cook’s Nook, paid for by a grant from Travis County, that has led to the distribution of hundreds of thousands of meals in the Austin area.

Impact by the numbers

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SEFAN Meals

300,000: number of meals distributed by Saffron Trust during the SEFAN program so far

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Households/Month

435: number of people who came to Saffron Trust for support in April 2023

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People/Month

1,675: number of total people served in those 435 households in April 2023

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Meals/Month

3,500: number of meals handed out in April 2023

Full Story

Phyllis Everette knew that food access was a critical part of breaking the cycle of generational poverty, but it wasn’t until the pandemic that she found out the power of a ready-to-eat meal.

Her non-profit, Saffron Women’s Trust Foundation, has been helping women break the cycle of generational poverty since 2018 and specializes in connecting families to community resources, including supplemental groceries.

But until a partnership with The Cook’s Nook that started in 2020, the organization didn’t have a good option for distributing ready-to-eat meals to people in the community who needed them.

That changed when officials with Travis County Commissioners made the unprecedented decision to spend $1.5 million to address the immediate need for supplemental food in the face of a community crisis.

That program became known as SEFAN, or the Supplemental Emergency Feeding Access Network, and it provided funding for local restaurants and commercial kitchens, including The Cook’s Nook, to prepare meals for distribution and home delivery through a network of more than 40 community and faith-based organizations.

Through the partnership with The Cook’s Nook and thanks to SEFAN funding, Saffron Trust is able to deliver more than 100 fresh meals a week at two pick-up locations in the neighborhood of the community they serve, Everette said.

The food is often what brings people to the pick-up site, but while they are there, they can find out about other services available to them. This might include access to low-cost housing or free furniture or even a haircut and trip to the spa.

“We have had mechanics donate their expertise and time to help repair cars of attendees. None of that could have happened without the spark of Cook’s Nook meal program.”

“After just a few weeks, people would talk about how they noticed a difference in their energy or in their mental health or diabetes.”

– Phyllis Everette, founder & CEO, Saffron Trust

Even before the pandemic, Saffron Trust was incorporating long-term food and nutrition education, but quality and variety of the meals from The Cook’s Nook were a change of pace from the canned or packaged items that are often distributed through food pantries.

The hundreds of Central Texans who started picking up meals at the Saffron Trust distribution sites in East Austin and Pflugerville were quick to tell Everette how it was affecting their lives.

“After just a few weeks, people would talk about how they noticed a difference in their energy or in their mental health or diabetes.” People can pick up as many as 10 meals, which can be frozen for later. Over time, they were able to add more options because of requests from clients.

“We even have people deconstruct the meals to fill in a stir-fry or they freeze veggies for later use or pack portions for school lunches,” she said. “Having ready-to-eat food instead of meals that require cooking is a huge step forward for people who are unhoused or limited for whatever reason in their ability to cook.”

“The SEFAN program has been an essential and extremely successful tool for Travis County. Not only does it meet people’s immediate need for prepared food but it connects them with staff who help them with other essential needs like housing or transportation or health care. This program provides them with delicious, healthy food and the tools to transform their lives.”

– Brigid Shea, Travis County Commissioner

It also created 25 jobs for people whose wages were also covered by the SEFAN funding from Travis County.

Everette said that Saffron Trust’s food distribution program is an example of community organizations – and county officials – taking a more holistic look at people’s needs.

According to Travis County Commissioner, Brigid Shea, “The SEFAN program has been an essential and extremely successful tool for Travis County. Not only does it meet people’s immediate need for prepared food but it connects them with staff who help them with other essential needs like housing or transportation or health care. This program provides them with delicious, healthy food and the tools to transform their lives.”

“The Cook’s Nook helps us achieve the long-term goal of changing social determinants of health; they aren’t just getting a meal, they are getting an education about barriers to success, managing diabetes, what happens after they fill their bellies,” Everette said.

Everette said that The Cook’s Nook meals are a big draw to invite people into what becomes intersectional work of food insecurity, housing and mental health. “Her food allowed people to come to the intersection.”

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