Piikup partners with local nonprofits to deliver
healthy food and community connection
By Rachel Trachten | Photos by Shannon Kelli
April Fenall, founder of the delivery service Piikup, describes her company’s work as “almost like a bee pollinating.” In her partnerships with numerous mission-driven organizations like Acta Non Verba, Mandela Partners, and Oakland Promise, there’s a common goal in providing food security and better jobs for under-resourced community members.
Nourishing New Families
There’s also “a dose of optimism,” especially evident in the weekly fresh produce boxes Piikup delivers to moms-to-be. These deliveries are part of Nourish!, a project of Mothers-for-Mothers Postpartum Justice and a collaborative partner of nonprofit Mandela Partners, who secured grant support for the program and also donates the produce boxes, which are aggregated from local BIPOC-owned family farms.
Nourish program coordinator Nina Arrocena of Mandela Partners says Piikup delivers those produce boxes to approximately 15 Black mothers weekly, along with hot food from Oak Harvest Kitchen, Teni East Kitchen, Reem’s, A Pleased Palate, and others. Over the past year, 80 new and expecting moms received this weekly fare. After the baby is born, the produce deliveries continue, and, for six weeks, families also receive a delivery of eight servings of hot food weekly from a local restaurant.
Training to Make Connections
When she launched Piikup in 2017, Fenall saw the opportunity for creating good jobs. “The secret sauce,” she says, “is the time we take to develop our team members.” Whether the task is improving trainees’ digital literacy or teaching soft skills like customer relations, Fenall is helping people become skilled, motivated, and confident workers. More than once, she’s encouraged team members who identify as “she/her” to do less apologizing for themselves; sometimes she helps an employee “find their voice” or think about options for a future career. Her current roster includes five core workers supporting the delivery operation, plus two trainees getting hands-on job training.
Because Fenall always educates her work crew about Piikup’s partner agencies, those team members have the knowledge to share employment, nutrition, and financial resources along with the delivery. About 75% of families getting deliveries from Piikup live in an apartment or public housing, and Fenall says it’s often a new father or male partner who comes to the door. “We encourage the team to meet people and share information about the programs,” she adds. “Piikup is that link to take the work even further, and it can’t necessarily happen unless the worker knows their role is to spread the word.”
Fruitful connections also happen because, in Fenall’s words, “team members often mirror the population we are delivering to and that we’re training.” She imagines a conversation that might take place between a team member and a delivery recipient. Perhaps that family has faced the common problem of struggling to find stable housing. Fenall imagines that a team member might say, “Hey, I know exactly what that feels like. I moved three times, I lived in a shelter when my child was born, and here are some of the resources I used to improve my life; can I share that with you?”
Additional produce deliveries come through a partnership between Piikup and local farm Acta Non Verba (ANV). Piikup delivers CSA boxes and food for ANV’s summer school and camp programs, and the farm provides produce that Fenall gives to Piikup team members to help offset the cost of eating organic. Fenall notes that workers are often introduced to vegetables they wouldn’t normally eat.
Growing Brilliant Babies
In partnership with Oakland Promise (OP), Piikup has the pleasure of bringing gifts to newborn babies and their families. Starting with the Brilliant Baby program, OP supports education for Oakland’s children through college savings accounts, financial guidance, and child development resources. When OP enrolls a new baby, Piikup delivers a welcome bag with toys, books, diapers, and a onesie.
Fenall learned about Oakland Promise thanks to Piikup customer FLAX Art & Design, which also provides grant support for OP. Dulce Torres-Petty, senior manager of the Brilliant Baby program, describes a kind of synergy that’s bubbled up through their collaboration with Piikup. Some families have heard about OP through Piikup, leading to college bank accounts and other services for their newborn. One of Piikup’s team members, in turn, is a Brilliant Babies mom.
“Piikup is not just a delivery courier,” says Torres-Petty. “They’re rooted in the community. We love that partnership, it’s perfect for the community we work with, and April embodies the values of both organizations, looking to uplift community members.” ♦
Rachel Trachten, Edible East Bay’s associate editor, writes about local food in connection to social justice, education, business, and the environment. View her stories at racheltrachten.contently.com.
Shannon Kelli’s editorial and commercial photography studio in Berkeley specializes in still and moving pictures that tell a unique visual story about the person, product, brand, or business they represent. shannonkelli.com