Beyond the Organization
With the launch of our Fall Maison Me collection, we are thrilled to partner with Good + Foundation. For every piece of Maison Me sold between October 8th and October 22nd, we're donating 1 piece from the collection to Good+Foundation, which pairs tangible goods with innovative services to help create better economic opportunities for mothers, fathers, and caregivers. Here, we catch up with Katherine Snider, Executive Director of Good+Foundation about their important mission, why fathers are their focus and how they have helped families through the pandemic.
- Good+ Foundation
What was the inspiration behind the Good + Foundation when it was founded in 2001?
Jessica Seinfeld founded Good+ a few months after her daughter Sascha was born. Jessica’s mom was a social worker for over 30 years and Jessica grew up in a family that was always involved in social justice issues. As a new mother, Jessica knew that raising a child could be expensive, and she was cognizant of the fact that even the most basic needs could be a stretch for parents living at or below the poverty line. (Here’s a sobering fact: a box of diapers costs the equivalent of 1.5 hours of the federal minimum wage.) Jessica created Good+Foundation as a means to providing under-resourced parents with essential items to keep their children safe and healthy. It was a simple, brilliant idea that would help address a huge unmet need.
And how has that mission evolved since?
We started in NYC and perfected our model and operations before scaling up nationally in 2010. We have offices and warehouses in NY and LA and distribute goods to approximately 75 partners in under-represented communities across the country like West Baltimore, MD and Lowell, MA. We evolved from a simple charitable model of donating goods to help meet the needs of moms and babies to a foundation that is investing in addressing the root causes of child and family poverty.
Good + Foundation is one of the few organizations that focuses on fathers and their potential as caregivers. Why is that so important and how has your programming shifted to more intentionally include fathers?
It’s fascinating. All of the research underscores the importance of father engagement with regards to outcomes for kids- they do better in school, are healthier, and are more likely to achieve economic stability as adults. Conversely, children from father-absent homes are four times more likely to experience poverty than children in two-parent homes. Despite this, most social service programs- Women Infant Children, for example- just focus on supporting the mother and child.
Years ago, I was looking at the demographics of Good+ families and noted that over 60 percent of Good+ families were headed by single mothers. It prompted us to find out what was happening with the dads. Were there programs out there that complemented those that focused on moms? We eventually found some quality fatherhood programs in NYC and LA and started to donate diapers, strollers and other goods. The response from the program partners and dads was astonishing. We hired an independent evaluator to help us understand the impact. Good+Foundation’s work with fatherhood programs and dads demonstrated that interventions with fathers resulted in improved relationships between non-custodial dads and the mothers of their children, dads’ relationships and time spent with their children, and fathers’ motivation to get additional help and support to become stronger providers for their children.
Unfortunately, we also came to realize that our culture, policies, and social service providers were treating fathers as nonessential actors in children’s well being. The singular focus on mothers as primary caregivers has put an extra burden on single moms, and sidelined fathers- to the detriment of children.
In the early years of our work in fatherhood, we felt a little lonely. It was hard to find others who were doing similar work. We approached Ascend at the Aspen Institute, a leader in sharing research and information on the best practices in addressing family poverty. Together, we organized the Father Factor, a convening of 100 thought leaders, academics, policy makers, and funders to share best practices in the fatherhood space and create solutions to addressing the barriers that keep low-income fathers from their children. We are currently working on a toolkit to create a child-centered approach to reforming the child support system, the welfare program that touches more children in this country than any other. Happily, there is support on both sides of the aisle to make this system work better to help the whole family.
Good + Foundation offers a unique hybrid of providing essential goods paired with services like parenting training and financial literacy classes that help to lift families out of poverty. Can you speak to the connection between these tangible, donated goods and a family’s overall trajectory?
The old adage says that it’s better to teach a man to fish so he can feed himself for a lifetime, but at Good+ we believe it’s a lot easier to learn how to fish if you’re not already hungry. The Good+ model integrates the tangible items necessary to raise babies and children so parents who are actively working to better their lives through social services and classes have the material items they need. Taking the time to attend a college prep class, for example, means a dad is choosing not to be at work at that moment and isn’t earning wages. Knowing that he’ll walk out of that class with a box of diapers from Good+Foundation makes it a lot easier for him to make the choice to attend class that day and focus on his education, putting himself and his family on a trajectory for long-term success. We also work with a number of community-based Head Start programs. A family may be motivated to enroll their toddler in Head Start knowing they will receive support from Good+ through items like school supplies. Their participation ensures the needs of the whole family are addressed, their child will enter kindergarten on track and prepared to succeed in elementary school and beyond, and help break the multigenerational cycle of poverty. In total, we partner with about 75 different grantee programs. While the models may differ, each one believes that investing in parents is key to creating better pathways for children.
Good + Foundation was already working with families who were experiencing poverty, job loss and food insecurity at higher rates before COVID-19. Can you tell us more about your response in the pandemic and how you have been able to help families in this difficult time?
Seventy eight percent of Good+ families were living below the poverty line prior to the pandemic. In March, as shelter-in-place orders were executed and businesses shut down, we knew it would adversely impact low-income communities. Sadly, about ninety percent of Good+ parents reported the immediate loss of employment. As Good+ partners pivoted to remote services, with education-based programs conducting classes over Zoom and home visiting programs implementing telehealth models, we saw an immense need for the support of in-kind donations but knew we’d have to adapt as well. Thanks to the support of our donors, we launched a financial grant program for the first time in the organization’s history. We distributed $125,000 in emergency microgrants to help 4,400 moms, dads, and children purchase critical items including groceries, cleaning supplies and formula. The grants also provided the flexibility to help clients pay rent and utility bills to avoid eviction and continue online schooling.
The Good+ team also focused on getting large-scale donations of essentials like diapers, wipes, and hygiene items out to partners who could host socially distant distribution events. Despite the logistical challenges brought on by the pandemic, we’ve donated more than $7 million in goods such as baby food, strollers, cribs and diapers since March 1. We continue to be impressed by the resiliency of our programs and appreciate the support from partners like Maisonette that allows us to continue to respond in this time of great need.