Schmooze: Mt. Sinai Community Foundation

When Loaves and Fishes Director of Operations Emily Schmitz met 12-year-old Max last summer, his eyes lit up! Schmitz knew why — the variety and taste of the food the Twin Cities meal provider had been cooking this year had been a favorite topic of conversation among the many children they serve.  

Max’s new favorite food, he told her, was pineapple.

Schmitz knows the important role healthy food plays in fighting obesity and chronic disease found too often in the low-income children they serve. With 19 sites, the organization’s summer food program provides over 50,000 meals to children, who would otherwise go hungry without access to school lunches. “Summer is a perfect time to not only ensure our children are eating,” said Schmitz.  “But to take the opportunity to expose them to variety, which is a critical step to increasing nutrition in their diet.”

The key to making this program work is Loaves and Fishes’ new Site Coordinator Recipe Book. The book, made possible by a grant from the Mount Sinai Community Foundation (MSCF), provides a wide variety of healthy recipes to site coordinators who don’t know what ingredients they will have on a daily basis. Without the book, site coordinators had struggled to bring tasty, varied meals to large quantities of children.

The Loaves and Fishes grant was just one of many initiatives funded by MSCF’s Giving Circle in 2015. Honoring the legacy of Minneapolis’ Mount Sinai Hospital, members of the MSCF Giving Circle pool their contributions and collaborate on funding innovative programs that improve health, enhance well-being, or advance medical care in the Twin Cities community.

On April 18, the organization will complete its grant cycle once again at their Giving Circle Annual Meeting. Each year, MSCF invites nonprofits to submit grant proposals and present their requests directly to MSCF voting members. After reviewing the finalist grant applications and listening to each organization’s presentation, members vote and allocate about $50,000 to as many as eight organizations. To date, MSCF’s has given more than $894,000 to Minnesota nonprofits.

The MSCF Giving Circle makes philanthropy more meaningful and personal. Each member helps determine how their dollars are spent through an engaging and democratic selection process. Natalie Zamansky has been giving though MSCF for four years.  “I find the giving circle process empowering,” said Zamansky. “By participating, I turn my $200 annual membership into almost $50,000 and make a much larger impact than I could individually.”

“The giving circle model is ideal for people who want to give collectively to maximize the impact of their donation,” said Linda Stone, Co-Chair of MSCF. “Our members engage more deeply in addressing our communities’ health and wellness needs, often uncovering new and innovative initiatives that would otherwise be difficult for an individual donor to access.”

From medical and mental health professionals to child advocates and public health experts, the MSCF giving circle attracts a diverse group of members who are involved in our community’s health and wellness. Anyone can join and participate in this philanthropic process. “When we come together to discuss our grant allocations, members bring with them a diversity of perspectives and knowledge,” said Stone. “This allows us to learn from one another and fund projects and initiatives that will make a meaningful difference in the lives of people in our community.”

In addition to Loaves and Fishes, MSCF’s 2015 Giving Circle funded Ampersand Families, Ascension Place, the Jewish Community Center of Greater St. Paul, Friends of St. Paul College, People’s Center Health Services, and ARC Greater Twin Cities.

To become a part of the MSCF Giving Circle movement, join the organization’s annual meeting on April 18 at 5:00 at the Sabes Jewish Community Center. For more information, visit