Wellfare Community Spotlight

by Emily Solomon

Part of the Food Policy Community Spotlight series

What they do: Wellfare is a free nonprofit grocery subscription for food-insecure households in New York City. They partner with food and beverage brands across the country to deliver high quality shelf-stable products like snacks, beverages and pantry goods. They also provide education material that includes wellness tips and discounts.

How they do it: They are able to achieve this by partnering with for profit brands such as Banza, Oatly and Bob’s Red Mill (just to name a few) and take donations of a combination of market-ready, liquidated and close-to-expiration inventory.  They use volunteers to sort donations and pack boxes that are then distributed monthly to member households from popup outposts directly in the community. This free grocery subscription program is available to food-insecure households in select NYCHA public housing developments in Bushwick and East Harlem. The program currently serves 681 households and has delivered over 2.83 million groceries worth $12,949,303 to New Yorkers in need.

Latest project/campaign: In April 2022, Wellfare expanded program enrollment in East Harlem to families living in Taft and Johnson houses and currently have149 households enrolled. They have also launched their Members Hub, which is an online home for members to learn more about the products in their box, receive wellness tips and gain access to exclusive deals and discounts offered by corporate and community partners. In May 2022, Wellfare added new partnerships with tbh, BODYARMOR, Mmmly and Real Food from the Ground Up to expand their selection of products offered in the boxes. This summer Wellfare will also take on a class of interns that will work in marketing, fundraising and program operations.

Major Funding:
Wellfare receives major funding support from organizations like The Coca-Cola Foundation, Dunkin’ Joy in Childhood Foundation, Whole Foods and a network of individual major donors from the food and consumer goods industries.

Profit/nonprofit: Wellfare is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

Annual Budget: $559,190

Interesting fact about how it is working to positively affect the food system: 

“Where most nonprofits typically focus exclusively on produce and dairy, Wellfare delivers nutritious alternatives to what families are already consuming on a daily basis: grab–and-go goods, single-serve beverages and pantry staples. We deliver products that easily integrate into the day-to-day eating habits of these families. Our products, however, feature less sugar, less fat and less salt and in the long term can serve as a gateway to a more nutritious lifestyle. This unique focus not only nourishes families that need food now, it helps them avoid the ultra-processed junk ubiquitous in their communities’ ‘ according to founder, Cole Riley.


Location:  Office in Chelsea, Warehouse in Queens, Outposts in East Harlem and Bushwick

Core Programs: Wellfare Grocery Box program

Number of staff: 4

Number of volunteers: 1,154

Areas served: East Harlem and Bushwick

Year Started: 2020

Director: Cole Riley

Contact Information: Wellfare can be contacted on their website.

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