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Black Founders powering the food revolution

Who are the upcoming food startups that has the potential to be the next IPO opportunity waiting to happen? It’s the startups led by Founders who are transforming the way we think, eat and live. Their revolutionary ideas have helped make food accessible for under-served communities, to developing breakthrough technologies that offer solutions to agriculture. These startups have the potential to transform the food industry and become household names.

Ibraheem Basir, CEO and Founder of A Dozen Cousins

A Dozen Cousins is a curated line of healthy Caribbean –Latin food products. Founder Ibraheem Basir named the food startup after his daughter and her 11 cousins. All of the company’s assortment of products are sourced with the idea of providing fresh ingredients, with no additives, GMO or artificial flavors. The A Dozens Cousins brand is committed to helping under-served communities access healthy food options. Each year the company donates its profits to nonprofit organizations that are working to eliminate socio-economic health disparities in the U.S.

Photo Credit: Might be Vegan

Kimberly Barnes, Founder of Might Be Vegan is on a mission to help Black and Brown communities eat healthy by way of a plant based diet. Barnes recently launched the Food Love by Might be Vegan program. Food Love is an initiative dedicated to providing access to healthy food options to under-served communities, including those living in low-income areas. Many of Barnes’ customers experience food insecurity, this includes access to healthy plant-based food options. Food insecurity is described as a household’s inability to provide enough food for every person to live an active and healthy life. In the United States, 1 in 9 people struggle with hunger. Most poverty stricken areas have no access to supermarkets, super centers, and large grocery stores which limits access to a variety of healthy and affordable food options. The recent health pandemic has left cash strapped families struggling to find healthy food alternatives. More than 820 million people were already chronically food insecure before the COVID-19 crisis. Kimberly Barnes’ Food Love program, provides direct-to-door plant based meals. Customers can purchase meals prepared by plant-based chefs. For those who are interested in donating to the Food Love organization, donors can have meals delivered to under-served communities.

Photo Credit: Instagram, Pinky Cole Center

Aisha “Pinky” Cole’s Slutty Vegan continues to be a raving success among fans!

Plant based food chain Slutty Vegan, is continuing to see its brand gain popularity and growth Founded in 2018, “The Slutty Vegan was born in my two bedroom apartment in July 2018. I was hungry and wanted some vegan junk food and, in pure light bulb style, the name came to me. A Slutty Vegan, to my mind, is someone who eats vegan but enjoys junk food—as long as it’s not dead. I knew the name would be a great hook to help people to re-imagine food. What I didn’t know was how much of an impact it would make.”

Currently Slutty Vegan has two locations in Atlanta, GA. Menu items include the “Big Dawg”, a plant-based bratwurst, sauerkraut, with a vegan sauce on a pretzel bun. The “One Night Stand” is a fan favorite. A plant-based patty loaded with vegan bacon, cheese, caramelized onions, lettuce, tomato and the “Slut Sauce”, on a vegan Hawaiian bun. Pinky Cole is more than an entrepreneur, through her foundation Pinky Cole Foundation, the organization aims to provide communities of color access to educational training programs and resources for aspiring entrepreneurs.

Photo Credit Twitter: CEO Jasmine Crowe The GoodrCo

Jasmine Crowe has built a social and environmental impact startup that helps companies become more sustainable, while feeding local communities. Goodr Co’s technology enables companies to track food waste, donations and provide reporting analytics.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s Household Food Security report, in 2018 an estimated 1 in 9 Americans were food insecure, equating to over 37 million Americans, this includes 11 million children While poverty is one of the driving factors of food insecurity, access to healthy food options and other resources, are challenges that families face. In the

United States, food waste is estimated at between 30-40 percent of the food supply. This corresponds to about 133 billion pounds and $161 billion worth of food in 2010 alone. Food wasted could help feed families instead of filling landfills.

The GoodrCo provides sustainable options for companies to reduce food loss and waste by donating to relief organizations to help feed people in need. In 2016 the USDA and EPA launched the U.S. Food Loss and Waste 2030 Champions program. Organizations have since then publicly committed to reducing food loss and wasted on their own. The U.S. is expected to see a 50 percent increase of companies incorporating sustainable practices by 2030. I’d say that Jasmine Crowe has positioned the GoodrCo brand to continue working with companies committed to reducing food waste, including those who are participating in the U.S. Food Loss and Waste 2030 Champions program.

Photo Credit: Instagram CEO and Co-Founders Nee-Neuh Nortey far left, Second to the right Kai Nortey

Husband and wife team Kai and Nee-Nueh Nortey Co-Founders of Kube Nice Cream have been churning out Vegan ice cream so fast, they sell out within hours of production! The curated line of products are non-dairy, vegan, raw coconut “ice cream”. Great for lactose intolerant folks or people who suffer from food allergies.

One of the cool things about Kube Nice Cream is that you can’t even taste the coconut flavor. Did I mention that Kube Nice Cream is non-bleached, contains no synthetic, nor unpasteurized additives?

What makes this food startup even more phenomenal is the company's commitment to food justice, equitable access to employment opportunities for under-served communities, while implementing zero waste strategies to reduce the company's carbon footprints.

The Nortey's have experienced a great deal of success, from bootstrapping their company to fundraising over $100,000. The goal is to expand it's operations, this includes purchasing equipment and hiring staff. The brand's goal is to create an ethnically inclusive diverse staff of mothers returning back to work, formerly incarcerated individuals who are returning to the workforce, and disabled people from the community. For more information on how to invest in the food startup, or to purchase products, please visit the website here

Photo Credit: Co-Founders Rita Kimani and Peris Bosire

Rita Kimani and Peris Bosire grew up in agricultural communities and families. Both Rita and Peris witnessed the unique challenges of growing a sustainable farm and decided to do something about it. In 2014, Rita and Paris launched FarmDrive in an effort to promote and develop sustainable agriculture. Using innovation and technology, FarmDrive connects smallholder farmers to financial solutions including financial management as a training opportunity to educate farmers.

As of 2019, the dynamic duo has raised over $500,000 including from firms such as Safaricom’s Spark Venture Fund.

Farming is an incredibly challenging industry that has its own unique barriers, especially for smaller farms. Sustaining and growing a farm in many African countries is even more difficult. Remote farmers have little to no access to the internet and even power. The roads are not paved making it difficult to transport food to the market for sell.

Access to investment capital is scarce as many institutions do not provide favorable loan products that are suitable for small producing farms. There is a $450 billion dollar financing gap for small holder farms.

65% of the workforce is involved in agriculture but less than 1% are approved for bank loans. Investment capital is required to properly scale a farming business. From purchasing certified seeds, operational costs including, planting, fertilizer, all are contingent upon profitability.

Equipment machinery is rather expensive, even used equipment has a short life span of about 5 to 10 years. Without having the right tools in place as well as proper funding, farmers run the risk of producing barren farms, loss of sales, even the first crop, which must survive its growing season.

As if the agriculture industry isn’t complex enough, government assistance, such as farming subsidies that include tax breaks are non-existent in most countries. Farmers can reinvest those savings into better equipment, fertilizer, machinery and reliable transportation. All of these issues have produced significant challenges for small farmers.

FarmDrive hopes to provide solutions for 50 million under-banked and under-served smallholder farmers. To date, FarmDrive has provided over $800,000 in loans to over 25,000 farmers.

Photo Credit: Instagram CEO and Founder Ashley Kirk

Chef Ashley Kirk, Founder of the plant based food startup, Planted Foods is no rookie to the food industry. Ashley Kirk built her reputation and following as a private Chef providing guests with unique, culinary experiences that includes, pop ups and private dinning events.

Chef Ashley’s famous dishes includes, mushroom & pepper pasta, with a grape seed sauce, or the famous, rich quinoa & lentil soup. Chef Ashley's clientele have enjoyed her 4 course, comfort food classics such as, vegan style jambalaya, fried okra, yams, Black eyed peas, and cauliflower fried “chicken”.

While on the hunt for healthy snack options, Ashley realized that her options were limited, and quite frankly, bland. She decided to launch her own line of pre-packaged vegan products. The curated line of pre-packaged goods are made with clean ingredients “Here at Planted Foods, we believe that ingredients should be familiar and simple”, Ashley Kirk. Planted Foods products contain no fillers, unhealthy preservatives, or manipulated ingredients.

Chef Ashley’s first line of products includes a non GMO nacho cheese sauce. Believe it or not, one of the hardest foods to give up for meat eaters who are transitioning into veganism is cheese. Planted Foods’ nacho cheese brand is flavorful, ultra-creamy and cheesy! The product line even has something for seafood lovers. Planted Foods’ Chickpea tuna has the same salty seafood-flavor, as canned tuna. Meat eaters, including recently converted vegans, will enjoy this delicious, healthy, and sustainable version. The Chickpea Tuna will definitely satisfy your seafood cravings.

Chef Ashley’s future goals with the Planted Foods brand is to eventually expand their product line of ready to eat food offerings to grocery stores, restaurants, and other distribution channels.

Photo credit: Instagram

Chef GW Chew, Food Inventor and Restauranteur of The Veg Hub brought “comfort” vegan cuisine to Oakland’s historical Dimond District. The Arkansas native opened The Veg Hub in 2017. The restaurant dishes plant-based lunches and dinners Monday through Thursday. This quaint, bustling eatery is located in Oakland’s Dimond district, a mixed residential and commercial part of Oakland California.

Chew began his vegan journey in 2000, and started developing his own vegan food products in 2004. This eventually led Chef Chew to create his “Better than Meats” products. Chew’s experimentation allowed him to recreate the texture and look of “real meat”. The Better than Meats product line of alternative meat is made from soft yuba, or “tofu skin”, and GMO-free soy beans. The “meat” product is used for The Veg Hub’s most popular item, the “Philly Cheese Steak” sandwich.

Chef Chew has expanded the brand and recently launched a new product line of vegan items. Customers can now purchase Something Better Food products at local grocery chains such as Wholefoods.

The Veg Hub Founder proudly continues to uplift communities through food, by providing plant based cooking classes.

Photo Credit: Instagram Chefs and Co-owners of The Vegan Hood Chefs Ronnishia Johnson and Rheema Calloway

The Vegan Hood Chefs was launched in 2017 by Ronnishia Johnson and Rheema Calloway with one goal in mind: Help change the way under-served communities approach healthy living through food.

With the support and collaborative efforts of the community and local organizations committed to ending food instability in the city of San Francisco, their message was heard loud and clear with a welcoming reception.

Chefs Ronnishia Johnson and Rheema Calloway knew that the pathway to helping communities change the way they eat and live is to start in the kitchen first. When the ladies first started The Vegan Hood Chefs they began offering catering services and popup dining experiences. People started looking forward to The Vegan Hood Chefs popups around the city as customers indulged in healthy, flavorful and creative food options.

Food apartheid is a systemic human-created issue. The two words "food apartheid" are rarely discussed nor associated with San Francisco's bustling global tech ecosystem. In a city that has seen a wave of wealth, with publicly traded companies such as Lyft, Slack, Postmates, Pinterest and Uber announcing it's IPO over the last 3 years, it's hard to imagine how deep the wealth gap runs in San Francisco communities.

In San Francisco, Black and African American residents experience poverty at nearly three times the average rate. Women still experience poverty at a higher rate than men.

With limited access to healthy, affordable food options, residents are left with choosing between feeding their families with processed food items, which are only shelved in most corner stores, or opt for fast food chains in the area.

In a new study, a team of researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago and Arizona State University found that fast food chains in predominantly black neighborhoods were more than 60 percent more likely to advertise to children than in predominantly white neighborhoods.

Lack of access to healthy food options have resulted in Black and African Americans having the highest mortality rate for 9 of the top 10 causes of death in San Francisco.

Communities around the city of predominately Black and Brown residents live in areas that are classified as a "food deserts”, by the USDA . Food deserts are defined as parts of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas. This is largely due to a lack of grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and healthy food providers.

Hank Herrera, a long time food justice activist and policy advocate illustrates: "Some of us don't use the term "food desert" because a a natural phenomenon. Lack of access to fresh, healthy food is not natural. It is not accidental."

Social Entrepreneurs around the country are stepping in, to attempt to fix a “broken system” by using food to eradicate racial inequity. While establishing a healthy food system goes beyond healthy food choices, Ronnishia and Rheema are creating initiatives that can impact individual decisions and collective action. Brands such as The Vegan Hood Chefs are a start in the right direction with addressing food resources.

The Duo is currently fundraising to offer free cooking classes to under-served communities.

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