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Celebrating Our Community

Magic City Harvest

Cadence Develops an Innovative Solution for Nonprofit Finance

Delivering More — for Magic City Harvest

The need is undeniable. Each year, more than 160,000 individuals in the three counties that make up the Birmingham, Ala., metropolitan area suffer from food insecurity. In Jefferson County, one in five are children. Magic City Harvest helps ensure these people don’t go to bed hungry.

 

Magic City Harvest was founded in 1995 to make a simple but critical connection. Collect excess perishable food that restaurants, grocery stores, caterers, schools and event venues were sending to the landfill — and deliver it to after-school programs, feeding agencies, shelters and church ministries throughout the area. “Our goal is straightforward,” said Suzanne Wright, Magic City Harvest’s Executive Director. “We strive to increase both the quantity and the nutritional value of the food available to people in need.”

 

The organization has come a long way. During its first year, volunteers driving their own cars collected and donated 7,000 pounds of food. In 2019, Magic City Harvest used its two refrigerated trucks and its staff drivers to collect more than 300,000 pounds of food and deliver them to 31 agencies serving approximately 5,770 meals per week.

 

As a matter of principle, these donations are free. “It is very important to us that no one pays even a dime for their meals,” Wright said. To keep costs down, the organization maintains a bare-bones operation. Its biggest expense is the $65,000 it spends annually on transportation.

 

But even at that level, meeting its budget was a challenge until Cadence Bank stepped in. Foundations, church groups and private donors have been generous — but Magic City Harvest needed a steady baseline source of revenue to maintain dependable pick-up and delivery.

 

Tell Alessio, Cadence Treasurer and former Magic City Harvest Board President, proposed an innovative solution adapted from affordable housing programs. “We loaned Magic City Harvest the funds to invest in mortgage-backed securities issued by government agencies,” Alessio said. “They are using the spread — the difference between the two interest rates — to help fund their programs.”

 

Magic City Harvest’s finances were now on a firm footing. “This loan was a turning point for us,” Wright says. “Now we know that we can keep the trucks on the road and that those in need will be fed.”

 

“At Cadence, we like to say that ‘fresh thinking is welcome here,’” said Josh Thaggard, the Senior Vice President and Business Banker who manages the relationship with Magic City Harvest. “Finding innovative ways to serve our customers is what we do.”

 

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