This week, we spoke with Turner Wyatt, executive director of Denver Food Rescue, “a health equity nonprofit that uses a bicycle-based delivery system to increase the nutritional value in the emergency food assistance system.” Turner also recently co-founded Goodness Groceries/Bondadosa, a social enterprise focused on increasing access to affordable, healthy food by delivering wholesale-priced groceries directly to people’s work or home. Turner is unambiguously passionate about the work he does and the impacts he aims to have. Read on to learn more!
1. Tell us about you and the social change you are trying to achieve within the structure of a government agency (e.g., family leave).
“Denver Food Rescue (DFR) is a health equity organization. Our main goal is to address the inequities in health outcomes for people based on their different levels of access to healthy food. Low-income people, people of color, people who live in certain areas in urban environments and have lower access to healthy food, these groups tend to end up with higher rates of diet-related illness. Our mission is to eradicate health inequities by providing equitable access to healthy food.”
2. What keeps you inspired and going when things get tough?
“What keeps me motivated is working to address really fundamental issues facing our community. I am passionate about the idea that based on your race and where you live, you shouldn’t have a greater chance of dealing with diabetes, obesity or any other diet-related illness that impairs your ability to live your life. That passion and dedication keeps me going. I have had nonprofit jobs before—when things are hard, you just have to kind of push through it. With regular jobs, that phrase typically means, like, “pushing to get through to the weekend,” but with this job, the motivation is different. It’s like “if I can get through this (difficulty), I can actually have an impact on people’s lives and make our city more just and sustainable.”
3. What advice would you give to someone who is trying to innovate within nonprofits?
“The advice I always give is that any organization should be validated by your community. Whether for-profit or nonprofit, your customer or constituent has to tell you that “this is something I want to buy.” In the nonprofit world, some people have their idea for what they want to do to make a change, but if there’s not a community there who aligns with you, who agrees that your idea is the absolute best way that they want to see change happen, then you will be unsuccessful. If you jump to “I want to start a nonprofit,” you are jumping the gun. You should know what you want to do based on listening to what the community says they need.”
4. What book do you recommend to everyone you meet and why? OR What book is on your to-read list and why?
“I love Let Your Life Speak by Parker Palmer. It’s about vocation, self-determination and the process of self-discovery. I recommend it to anybody. Also, This Is It by Alan Watts. This work is often stressful, it requires long hours, and there are times when you can get caught up in your ego. The main message of This is It is: you have no ego. So you might as well enjoy life because it’s a big work of art, and enjoy it for the simple beauty that it has.”
5. How have you worked with JVA, and how has that helped your organization?
“Just recently, I participated in the Executive Director Academy’s “genius bar” panel and it was really fun! JVA is good at hosting fun get-togethers where you can meet interesting people who are working on cool projects. I took the [Social Enterprise Basecamp] which did a lot to get me ready to launch DFR’s social enterprise, Bondadosa/Goodness Groceries. We then came back to JVA to hire Adam Brock and Rolfe Larson to help with making a bunch of recommendations for how we structure the business—they put together a business model plan outline for us.”
Want to be like Turner? Make sure you sign up for our next Social Enterprise Base Camp, April 24-28, where you can develop your concept for your dream business-for-good—there are just a few seats left, so register today!