Since Community Vision, formerly thee Northern California Community Loan Fund, took over administration of California FreshWorks two years ago, its Technical Assistance (TA) Grants Program awarded more than $350,000 across 11 grants to businesses and nonprofit organizations creating accessible healthy food options in the Bay Area, Central Valley, and Southern California.
Through its statewide network of CDFI lenders, California FreshWorks offers financing to food-related enterprises that increase access to healthy foods in low-income communities situated in five focus regions throughout the state. FreshWorks addresses systemic disinvestment with financial tools designed to increase equity in food and financial systems. TA Grants augment our lenders’ flexible capital by connecting enterprises to the professional services needed to build a financially successful project. This targeted support can be hard to come by for new and small operations with limited means; and can be instrumental in establishing financial sustainability. The grants are flexible and can be used for a range of activities, including pre-development / pre-transaction technical assistance and/or post-opening / post-loan capacity building support for projects that promote the following goals:
- Healthy Food Access: Increase access to healthy food for residents of low-income, low-access communities;
- Racial & Social Equity: Ensure equitable access to food, ownership, and jobs;
- Economic Development: Spur job creation and inclusive economic development;
- Environmental Stewardship: Encourage sustainable environmental practices;
- Local Sourcing: Build a sustainable California food system that increases availability of locally grown or produced foods.
“The FreshWorks Technical Assistance grantees represent unique locally-based approaches for improving access to healthy foods and cultivating equity in the food system. The TA grants are intended to catalyze community-centered solutions by removing structural barriers and unlocking financial and capacity building support,” said Catherine Howard, Community Vision’s director of strategic initiatives and FreshWorks director.
The following grantees received Technical Assistance awards during years 1 and 2 of Community Vision’s administration of the California FreshWorks program.
Year 1 Grantees
- Mandela Food Cooperative, Oakland – $50,000: Since 2009, MFC has been the only market in West Oakland to serve community needs for healthy, fresh, and affordable foods, as well as jobs, job training, and business ownership opportunities. They source most of their products from local family-owned businesses and farms, thereby cultivating a just and sustainable food system. This award supported a point-of-sale (POS) system and training, and financial management services and training to bring their financial management in-house, and facilitating an expansion of offerings.
- Mandela Partners, Oakland – $34,000: Mandela Partners focuses on issues of economic disinvestment, food insecurity, and health inequity by supporting and resourcing the development and growth of locally owned economies and sustainable food systems. This award supported planning research for a proposed relocation and expansion.
- Food Commons Fresno, Fresno – $50,000: Food Commons Fresno is growing a community food system that fosters health, stewardship, equity, and economic development. The award supports predevelopment design and analysis to acquire a parcel to build a Community Food Hub in Southwest Fresno. Through a Direct Public Offering campaign, the project enabled local residents to create community wealth through ownership.
- Community Health Councils, Los Angeles – $50,000: Community Health Councils is a non-profit, community-based health education and policy organization, whose mission is to promote social justice and achieve equity to improve the health and well-being of under-resourced populations. The award supported the development of a public finance and capital campaign strategy for a mixed-use development (the HUB) that will be a healthy food centered social enterprise in the Broadway-Manchester neighborhood.
- Community Services Unlimited (CSU), Los Angeles- $50,000: The mission of CSU is to foster the creation of communities actively working to address the inequalities and systemic barriers that make sustainable communities and self-reliant life-styles unattainable. With the first of two TA grants, CSU created an executable business plan, allowing them to access development financing from a FreshWorks network lender for a social enterprise wellness center that includes a produce market, cafe, commercial kitchen and cold storage space. The second TA grant supported the purchase and installation of a point-of-sale (POS) system for the produce market.
Year 2 Grantees
- Oakland Hot Plate, Oakland – $50,000: Located in downtown, Oakland Hot Plate is converting their successful cafe to a fresh food bodega market. The award supports site planning, market research, and updating their business model. Once reopened, the bodega will feature fresh local, organic produce; dry bulk items; prepared foods; grab and go deli items; refrigerated and frozen grocery items; and an indoor growing system for microgreens and culinary herbs.
- Something Better Foods, Oakland – $9,900: Something Better Foods was founded to provide healthy, culturally appropriate alternatives to underserved African American communities. The TA grant supported development of a capital strategy and financial advising to develop a direct to consumer business plan that ensures products are affordable and accessible in low-income, low-access communities.
- La Jacka Mobile, Fresno – $8,000: Ms. Miriam Martinez, founder and owner of La Jacka Mobile, prepares culturally relevant medicinal foods that are affordable to low income Latino communities across the Central Valley. She uses La Jacka Mobile as a platform to educate on healthy food alternatives and ensures access by selecting locations where she can have the most impact. She specializes in using the high protein, nutrient rich jackfruit; a skill she learned growing up in Nayarit, Mexico, where her family farmed, processed, and sold jackfruit. The award supported the development and launch of a long-term capital strategy for truck ownership and business planning.
- Gentefy, Montebello – $49,809: Gentefy serves as a catalyst for community-driven economic development. The award supported architectural, structural, and operations planning services for the BLVD MRKT, a revitalization project that is a partnership between Gentefy, the City of Montebello, and Genesis LA. BLVD MRKT will revitalize a block of downtown Montebello, while providing affordable, healthy food options and supporting emerging food entrepreneurs of color.
- Todo Verde, Los Angeles- $1,000: Todo Verde is a woman of color owned business inspired by Latin American roots and flavors. Todo Verde is committed to advancing food equity and lifestyle shifts in healthy eating and self care through affordable plant-based food options, as well as educational opportunities like workshops and food demonstrations. The award supported developing a kitchen floor plan and equipment schedule for their brick and mortar location based in Boyle Heights.