woman scooping brown and white ice cream
Mona Lipson founded Ice Cream For Change in 2020. Credit: Nina Roberts

On last year’s National Ice Cream Day, July 18, Mona Lipson of Miss Mona Makes Ice Cream co-created Ice Cream For Change with Dr. Maya Warren, an ice cream scientist based in Los Angeles, CA.

(Yes, that Dr. Warren who won The Amazing Race in 2014 with lab mate Dr Amy DeJong.)

A one-day initiative, Ice Cream For Change was organized last year in just three weeks, enabling 130 ice cream shops and makers to donate a percentage of their July 18 sales to a social justice organization of their choosing, collectively raising $70,000. The idea began when protests for racial and social justice flooded the U.S. streets in reaction to the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis policeman Derek Chauvin, now convicted.

This year it’s a completely different situation,” says Lipson, who has been organizing this year’s Ice Cream For Change, “everybody really busy, Maya and I are also really busy.” Lipson is scaling up Miss Mona Makes Ice Cream and Dr Warren is helping TV personality and entrepreneur Tyra Banks launch her ice cream company, Smize. (Banks wrote the forward to our editor’s recently published book, The New Builders. Smize, which launched last month, is not participating.)

“We had full intentions of starting this with three months notice,” says Lipson of this year’s Ice Cream For Change, “didn’t happen.” So far, 84 ice cream establishments are participating in this year’s Ice Cream for Change compared to 130 last year. Indeed, ice cream business owners are returning to the daily grind, or churn, but ice cream people are typically excitable fun types, game for any ice cream-centered activity, and some are just late signing up.

Sally Mengel, co-owner of Loblolly Creamery in Little Rock, Arkansas, didn’t hesitate for a moment when deciding to participate in this year’s Ice Cream for Change; they will donate 10% of their sales to FoodJobsWork. “We do a lot of partnerships with nonprofits already, so this is something we’d do,” says Mengel. Last year they raised $200 for Better Community Development.

Mengel thinks ice cream shops are like community centers, a place where people meet friends, celebrate, mourn, take out of town guests, so its only fitting that an ice cream shop would help raise money for social justice organizations. “Plus,” adds Mengel, “ it makes people feel good about eating ice cream!”

Besides the bleak pandemic-induced economic landscape of last July compared with this July, the political climate is also different. The new administration is more aware of social justice issues and most street protests have fizzled out. Do businesses still feel compelled to raise funds for social justice initiatives?

“It’s still close to our hearts here,” says Minneapolis’s Honey & Mackie’sowner, Suzanne Varecka about racial justice issues, “it’s raw, and real.” Honey & Mackie’s is located just over ten miles from where George Floyd was killed. Prompted by last year’s Ice Cream For Change initiative, Varecka sought a nonprofit that would be a good fit and chose Appetite for Change, a local organization that runs multiple food-related community building initiatives. Since partnering last National Ice Cream Day, Honey & Mackie’s and Appetite for Change have partnered on other projects, “We forged a real bond,” says Varecka.

Other individually owned shops like Caffé Panna in New York City will participate, as are vast ice cream operations like Van Leeuwen and Popbar. And Ice Cream For Change is inclusive, no militant restrictions about what’s considered official ice cream, so plant-based, lactose-free and non-dairy companies are included.

This story and others on New Builders Dispatch are made possible by a sponsorship from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation is a private, nonpartisan foundation that provides access to opportunities that help people achieve financial stability, upward mobility, and economic prosperity – regardless of race, gender, or geography. The Kansas City, Mo.-based foundation uses its grantmaking, research, programs, and initiatives to support the start and growth of new businesses, a more prepared workforce, and stronger communities. For more information, visit www.kauffman.org and connect with www.twitter.com/kauffmanfdn and www.facebook.com/kauffmanfdn.