Episode 223: Justin Levy

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In 2004, Levy was an 18-year-old high school graduate who enjoyed going to see music concerts. He flew out to Colorado with his brother to see The String Cheese Incident. There he met the founders of a fledgling non-profit called Conscious Alliance. Their goal was to supply food to the residents of the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota by activating music fans to participate in large-scale food drives.

Now, Conscious Alliance is a movement of artists, musicians, food makers and music lovers on a mission to end hunger in underserved communities nationwide with over 119 festivals and concerts under their belt.

The first drive benefited the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota where 40,000 Oglala Lakota Native Americans live. Pine Ridge Reservation is one of the most economically isolated communities in the country and is about the same size as the state of Connecticut. For 40,000 people it only has one grocery store! Conscious Alliance has since opened a food pantry and started working with all 15 schools on the reservation to make sure kids going to school have plenty of healthy food to eat.  The band Widespread Panic and Conscious Alliance donated over 900 musical instruments to schools throughout Pine Ridge Reservation. Conscious Alliance also helped build a school garden program that offers over 700 students at Pine Ridge learning on how to garden and enjoy the healthy harvest.

“We started developing relationships with schools knowing that where the kids go every day we can reach a lot of families with the backpack program approach.” Justin Levy (14:16-14:39)

Along the way, Conscious Alliance has met plenty of “hungry heroes”, many of whom are in the natural food community, like Justin Gould from Justin’s Peanut Butter. These brands helped shine a light on the huge amount of food waste going on in the United States, which triggered Conscious Alliance to work out logistically how they can go to different brand’s warehouses and pick up food before it hits the landfill… food that is close to code, mislabeled, or discontinued products.  Great brands like Applegate, Conagra, Hormel, and many more you know have all partnered with Conscious Alliance.

Think your kids are obsessed about trading cards? Try concert goers and their posters! At every event, an attendee can make a food or monetary donation and receive a limited edition screen printed poster with the band, venue and date on it. It’s a special reminder of the opportunity the concert goer had to give back, make a difference, and of course a memory of the amazing time they had.

Conscious Alliance was still able to make an impact during the pandemic when, of course, live music events were on pause. At the beginning of lockdown, one of CA’s board members (who happens to own a restaurant) asked Justin if he had a way to distribute meals if the restaurant made them. Justin connected with a kindergarten teacher on the Advisory Board and ended up working with three teachers who were going to visit their kids’ doorsteps.  The teachers were able to drop off dinners made from various restaurants in Boulder, Colorado. This way, the teachers could check in on their students and make sure their families were okay and ensure everyone was receiving quality nutrition during this scary time. Episode 223 graphic quote This caught the attention of the World Central Kitchen, a non-profit that sets up mobile kitchens in areas that need them most, like war zones for example. When partnering with WCK, Conscious Alliance from serving around 160 restaurant meals a week to almost 2000, making for about 2.6 million meals total in 2020. 

Now that restrictions are removed and we’re “coming back to life”, Conscious Alliance is back at it again with concerts, festivals and music events. How can you get involved or find out where they’ll be next? Simply visit their website and find a listing of upcoming events or a way to donate virtually. You might see a band or event you’ve been dying to go to, or some of your favorites like Jack Johnson, The Dead, Umphrey’s McGee and many more that you can now see live again!

How to get involved

  • Join The Produce Moms Group on Facebook and continue the discussion every week!
  • Reach out to us – we’d love to hear more about where you are in life and business! Find out more here.

If you liked this episode, be sure to subscribe and leave a quick review on iTunes. It would mean the world to hear your feedback and we’d love for you to help us spread the word! Episode 223 title graphic

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About Lori

Lori Taylor is the Founder & CEO of The Produce Moms. For ten years she sold fresh produce to over 300 grocery stores throughout the United States, and today she is fully focused on working with the produce supply chain, media, and government to increase fresh produce access & consumption in the US and around the globe. Connect with Lori on LinkedIn.

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