Good Food Takes on the School Fundraiser

OCTOBER IS NATIONAL Farm to School month. It’s one of those “take the pledge” times of year that catapults school fundraising season into overdrive. And with the designation comes all the familiar annual pressure to load the tables with goodies and buy whatever is on offer.

We’ve all been there. A co-worker or family member blindsides you with catalogues and order forms for candles you don’t need or cookies you don’t want. In a moment of weakness, you find yourself signed up for a giant tub of cheddar jalapeno popcorn chock-full of artificial ingredients..

But school fundraising is no longer the old-time cottage industry many of us remember, bolstered by the bake sale and door-to-door dollar chocolate bar pitch. It’s big, big business. According to the Association of Fund-Raising Distributors and Suppliers (AFRDS), schools and other non-profits net $1.7 billion selling cookie dough, candy, popcorn and a variety of other food and non-food products. Schools depend on these fundraisers to purchase sports equipment, technology, and plan field trips.

At the same time, as cultural interest in—and government support of—healthier school lunch programs has grown, parents and educators have begun questioning why schools sanction the sale of high-fat, high-sugar processed food, especially in a nation with a childhood obesity rate of 17 percent and rising.

When Mark Abbott found himself faced with the annual school fundraising campaign, he dutifully supported his son, who sold $400 worth of candy and cookie dough to friends and family. But after Abbott’s son questioned why he was selling processed food his family never ate at home, Abbott was inspired. He thought, why not create a school fundraising program that offers healthy, locally made products including honey, jam, pasta, granola, and seasonal produce?

In 2013, Abbott did just that, and introduced FarmRaiser—an online and mobile market—to schools in Flint, Michigan. With his fundraising model, not only can schools raise money, they can also support local businesses that produce healthy food. “Parents are responding to it in a big way,” Abbott says. “We are disrupting an industry.” Since 2013, FarmRaiser has managed 150 fundraising campaigns, become active in 22 states, and helped raise $270,000.

With a traditional school fundraising program, a school can expect to net 20-50 percent of sales. FarmRaiser, on the other hand, preserves that net percentage for schools (by charging a flat rate of 10 percent of sales, Farmraiser guarantees at least a 45 percent return to the school, though the typical campaign returns, on average, 51 percent to the cause), but also extends the support to local food artisans and farmers. “Our entire value proposition is leaving 85 percent of the money in the community,” Abbott says.

FarmRaiser tailors the products to the school’s location, so most of the vendors are truly “local,” and live within 30 miles of the school. For people who want to support the school but aren’t interested in receiving products, FarmRaiser offers a community basket donation. Half of every cash donation goes to the school while the other half goes to a local food bank or homeless shelter. According to Abbott, 10 percent of sales are community basket donations.

FarmRaiser works with 150 food vendors who offer more than 500 different products. Abbott explains that although the vendors sell their products at 50 percent less than retail, they gain tangible benefits with very little risk. FarmRaiser shares customer information with their vendors, allowing them to reach out to potential customers they know have already tried their product.

“For our suppliers that sell direct to consumers in their community, the cost of acquiring that potential customer is the margin [they] would have made in retail sales,” Abbott says. He estimates that 15,000 people have tried local products with FarmRaiser so far.

Al Dente Pasta Company in Whitmore Lake, Michigan has participated in 16 FarmRaiser campaigns since 2013. It sells its products in a bundle: two bags of pasta and one sauce. “For us it isn’t a financial gain. It was more wanting to support something really interesting that I thought served an important purpose,” says owner Monique Deschaine. “The model is a real win-win. You’re showcasing local ingredients. You’re allowing schools or organizations to fundraise. And you are giving people what they want.”

Like any online fundraising platform, FarmRaiser’s business model depends largely on how well its technology functions. And for users of other similar platforms like Kickstarter or GoFundme, the interface and “campaign” process will feel relatively familiar: a dashboard design that’s friendly to users who sit anywhere on the tech-savvy spectrum, and a mobile app that replaces order forms and processes payment by check, cash or credit card. Around 45 percent of FarmRaiser transactions are electronic, Abbott says, and he expects that number to grow.

For schools that still want to use paper, brochures and order forms can be printed from the FarmRaiser website, and schools can input their own orders into their custom campaign pages. Abbott says 75 percent of the campaign set-up and maintenance is automated, and his team is working on the final 25 percent.

But getting the technology up to speed is really only part of the equation. “Our biggest challenge is finding schools that want to do healthy fundraising,” Abbott says. Approaching schools to give a sales pitch is very expensive and time consuming. So instead, FarmRaiser has developed partnerships with like-minded organizations such as Slow Food USA, Food Corps, and Whole Kids Foundation. Abbott estimates that the FarmRaiser message can reach as many as 1 million people on social media through posts from its partners.

Meanwhile, the billion-dollar school fundraising market provides an endless–and annually renewable– source of growth opportunities. The company currently staffs three full-time and one part-time employee, along with five engineering contract workers. So far, investors have provided the funding for start-up and operating costs. And as FarmRaiser continues to automate campaign management, the profitability of each campaign increases.

FarmRaiser is harnessing the power of good food rather than irrelevant junk, and in turn making more money for schools. Their technology is not that new, and neither — obviously — is the idea of healthy food. What it is doing is extending at scale the intangible benefits of a fundraiser beyond the institution and into the community.


Published on The New Food Economy by Chris Hardman 

Flint MTA Provides Rides to Grocery Stores

BEFORE FLINT, MICHIGAN became synonymous with poisoned water, residents had another major health concern: limited access to healthy foods. Residents were shocked in the spring of 2015 when two of Flint’s major east side grocery stores, part of the Meijer and Kroger chains, closed their doors. The city had already lost a Kroger several months earlier on the northwest side of town.

“The public was wondering, ‘How will people get their groceries?’ There wasn’t a grocery store within four to five miles,” says Derrek Williams, manager of Fixed Route Transportation Services for Flint’s Mass Transportation Authority (MTA). In a city where42 percent of residents live below the poverty level, many households can’t afford a car to drive to a grocery store across town or outside the city limits.

“Our staff met to talk about what we could do to help people,” says Edgar H. Benning, the Flint MTA’s general manager and CEO, who grew up on the east side of Flint. “We had a real challenge on our hands.”

Last April, Benning and his team introduced a new bus route serving east-side neighborhoods called Rides to Groceries, which takes passengers to the east-side grocery stores, Kroger in the northeast and to Walmart in the southeast. (While the bus also stops near a new grocery store called Fresh Choice Market, few riders patronize the store because of its higher prices.) To make the bus affordable for as many people as possible, the MTA reduced the normal bus rate by half, to just $0.85 each way.

The new bus route took a while to catch on. “The people really didn’t know how to receive it, because no one tailors a bus for a neighborhood,” Williams says. “Our biggest challenge has been getting the people out to ride and understanding that this ride is set up for the grocery store.”

The MTA, which employs a staff of 470 people, launched a publicity campaign by handing out flyers, talking to block clubs, and knocking on doors. Special bus signs with grocery carts dot the route, and recently, the bus was wrapped with a colorful image that includes a shopping cart, fresh produce, and contact information.

In the early days of the new route, an MTA bus driver noticed one rider who was taking the bus almost every day and bringing home only one or two small bags. When the driver told Benning about the woman, he realized she was shopping every day because she couldn’t carry a week’s worth of groceries from the bus stop to her home.

Wondering if other riders had the same problem, Benning sent several of his staff into the neighborhoods to interview passengers. They found that some people had trouble maneuvering from the bus stop to their homes, Benning says.

In response, he decided to develop another option: “We offered another level of service, which would allow people to go from their home to the store,” he said. For $2.25 each way, residents living off the main route can call and schedule pickups and drop-offs at their homes. Similar to the bus route, the call-in service, which relies on a separate vehicle, is available all day, Monday through Saturday.

According to Benning, ridership has grown from 235 people the first month to about 900 per month more recently. “Not only do we have people who use it daily to go shopping, but we also have people who work at those stores and use it,” he says.

Frequent bus rider and Walmart employee Violetta Allen, who used to walk more than two miles both ways to shop and go to work, says she finds the new bus service helpful. “I used to walk from Center Road to work at Walmart,” she says. “The shopper bus brings me all the way out here. Now I don’t have to carry my groceries so far when I get off of work.”

The MTA plans to expand the service to the other side of town and introduce call-in program riders to grocery minibuses. Benning says the MTA has to adapt to the needs of an isolated and aging population. “In some cases, they go to the corner drug stores and are living off what’s on those the shelves,” he says.

The Rides to Groceries bus costs $6,000 per month to operate. Because the fares don’t offset that new cost, Benning has sought funding from the community and from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. So far, the Kroger Foundation donated $15,000; Walmart gave $1,000; and United Way of Genesee County gave $5,000.

“If we wait until the money’s there, we will never get it,” Benning says. “Let’s put it out [there], make it work, and figure out how to fund it.”


Published on CivilEats by Chris Hardman

 

How to Change School Food in Detroit

IN THE PAST FOUR YEARS, school meals in Detroit have been transformed. Gone are the chicken nuggets and sugary drinks. Now school cafeterias serve fresh fruit and mixed baby green salads, lean meat, low-fat milk, and whole grain breads. Better yet, some even serve produce from school gardens and local farmers.

The change hasn’t occurred overnight. The Detroit Public Schools Office of School Nutrition, which serves breakfast and lunch to more than 55,000 kids in 141 schools, has worked hard to create such a dramatic nutritional turnaround. And much of the credit goes to the office’s executive director, Betti Wiggins.

In 2008, Detroit Public Schools (DPS) was outsourcing its food service program. But the staff union had the foresight to hire Wiggins to propose bringing it back in-house. Her background as chief of nutrition for the District of Columbia and as a food services director in three other states, came in handy, and the district was convinced she was the one to turn things around.

Right off the bat Wiggins did away with the outside food management company, which allowed her to more than double the size of the food budget. (Before Wiggins came on board, DPS was spending 23 percent of its budget on food; it’s now 51 percent). The change in the quality was dramatic.

“One of the first things we did was turn the deep fryers off,” Wiggins says. “There are certain foods I don’t think we should be serving in schools. I don’t serve hot dogs and corn dogs; I think that’s carnival food.”

Next she increased the servings of fresh fruits and vegetables. Once a week the students are introduced to a new raw vegetable. If they don’t like the jicama, sugar snap peas, or asparagus the first time, it doesn’t matter. As long as Wiggins continues to put new food on their plates, the kids will eventually eat them. Since 2009, the students have also been eating brown rice and enjoying Meatless Mondays with hummus, eggs or cheese.

“Cafeterias should be viewed as an extension of the classroom,” she says. “We don’t do home economics anymore. That is where we are doing real nutrition education—on their plates.”

During Wiggins’ tenure, the Office of Nutrition staff has also grown to include lunchroom workers with nutritional training like Chef Kevin Frank, a Detroit native and graduate of the Schoolcraft College Culinary Arts Program. Chef Frank’s daily challenge is to create delicious and healthy meals that children will actually eat.

Thanks to Wiggins, Detroit public schools now buy 22 percent of their produce, including potatoes, apples, squash, peaches, and asparagus from farms around the state. They work with seven farmers, including Barbara Norman, whose farm, Barbara’s Blueberry Patch, sells 80,000 pounds of berries to the district each year.

Under Wiggins’ leadership, DPS became the first school district in the country in 2009 to offer free breakfast to every student regardless of household income. The goal has been to eliminate some of the social stigma associated with free food. As a result, more kids are eating a healthy breakfast than ever before. Breakfast—which includes yogurt, a granola bar, fresh fruit, and low-fat milk—is integrated into the school day and served in the classroom after the bell rings.

At lunchtime students can eat a free hot lunch and those participating in after-school tutoring and enrichment programs can also eat a free dinner. “A lot of kids come to school to eat,” says Wiggins.

The companion program to the meal service is the Detroit School Garden Collaborative. Wiggins comes from a farming background and has maintained strong ties to the agricultural community. With the help of a school board member, she started a farm-to-school program that now includes 76 school gardens. To make sure gardens thrive, each participating school has to sign a contract committing staff time to maintain its garden. DPS employs a garden director, a farmer, and a horticulturist to run the program.

The largest DPS farm is located at the Drew Transition Center, a school for young adults with special needs. There, a 2-1/4-acre farm and 96-square-foot hoop house produce corn, greens, and root vegetables. More than 7,000 ears of corn from the Drew farm ended up on the plates of schoolchildren throughout Detroit last year.

Another shining star in Wiggins’ $43 million dollar budget is a plan to turn an abandoned high school into the Kettering Urban Agricultural Campus. The site will include installing a 27-acre farm, 8 hoop houses, indoor growing areas, and a food processing center. Food grown and processed on the site will be used to feed schoolchildren and other members of the community.

Throughout the city, innovators from the Detroit Bus Company, the Green Garage, andMotor City Blight Busters are working to rebuild the city and grow its economy. Wiggins sees public school lunches as another sign of this positive change.

“It’s a rebirth,” she says. “It’s caring about our citizens.”


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An Urban Farmer Breaks New Ground in Flint

THIRTY-YEAR-OLD Roxanne Adair is a trailblazer. In 2010, she and a friend started Flint River Farm in Flint, Michigan, a city where urban farming isn’t the norm. Adair’s background was in fisheries, wildlife, and biology, and she used the knowledge gained working at the Genesee County Land bank to buy and rent city lots, totaling nearly three acres, in the heart of Flint.

This process wasn’t easy. Flint’s history mirrors that of other rust belt cities. The city had a robust economy based in the auto industry until it began to decline in the 1970s. When General Motors closed multiple plants and cut thousands of jobs in Flint in 1989, work suddenly became scarce. As unemployment and crime increased, the media dubbed Flint “the Murder Capital” of the U.S.

Despite the city’s challenges, Adair and her partner jump-started their business with a grant from the Ruth Mott Foundation. Their goal was to create a sustainable business model for urban farming in Flint.

The farmers built hoop houses, produced enough vegetables to supply a multi-family community supported agriculture program (CSA), harvested honey from two beehives, and even tapped neighborhood maple trees to make syrup. They sold their organically grown produce at the Flint Farmers’ Market.

Since her partner left in 2012, Adair has continued to expand the farm on her own, and the space now occupies 17 city lots. Flint River Farm produces a wide array of heirloom crops, including apples, blackberries, strawberries, cherries, corn, melons, tomatoes, squash, dried beans, carrots, beets and Brussels sprouts—the list goes on and on.

frf joannas dadWhile Flint River Farm is filled with fresh produce, the neighborhood still faces its challenges. Across the street is a burned-out convenience store. The main drag, Saginaw Street, is a block away and is home to strip clubs, a pawn shop, and a liquor store.

Theft is a frequent problem on the farm, but Adair doesn’t begrudge her hungry visitors. “If you need [food] bad enough to steal it, you need it more than I do,” she says. But, she encourages people to reach out to her first: “Tell me and I will harvest it for you. I’ll wash it for you and have it ready.”

Vandals also come through the farm regularly, slashing the thick polyethylene walls of the hoop houses or spray painting gang paraphernalia on the sides. Repairs and replacements can cost thousands of dollars.

By and large, however, the long-time residents of the neighborhood have become Adair’s friends. They share tools, talk over the tomatoes, and collaborate on composting. Adair recalls that when she started the farm, she rarely saw the neighbors outside. “They would mow their lawn and then run back inside,” she says. Now people have planted flowers and are taking pride in their landscape. “I can’t take credit for that,” says Adair, “but I think [the farm] has caused people to come outside more and not hate their surroundings.”

Throughout the year, Adair shares her knowledge through community workshops, on topics as diverse as urban foraging, composting, maple syrup making, organic gardening, and season extension. Although she charges a small fee for the classes, Adair admits that she doesn’t turn anyone away. “There is a spirit in the city of Flint that I haven’t found anywhere else,” she says. “The people who have stayed have been through some really hard times. I have a respect for the struggle.”

Flint River Farm aims to address the city’s high unemployment rate by providing jobs to Flint residents. Using grant money, Adair hired local teenagers to farm and work at the farmers’ market. At the height of the growing season, she employed nine full-time staff members and two interns. As the farm moves toward self-sustainability, Adair hopes these jobs will become more permanent. When the farm first started, it was entirely grant-funded. This year grants accounted for only 40 percent of the operating costs.

To sustain the farm, Adair has diversified her product line. She has sold lip balm made from her bees’ wax, salad mixes from the hoop house, teas from dried herbs, eggs from her small flock of chickens, and nut butters she grinds herself. This month, she began selling bulk dried goods like organic oats and flour at her stand in the market. “I am confident that with bulk food bins we will be sustainable next year,” she says.

Last summer, the city threatened to confiscate the chickens Adair keeps at her house. Flint’s Blight Authority gave her 30 days to dispose of the birds. Adair used that opportunity to try to change a 1968 city ordinance that prohibits residential homeowners from keeping “fowl” on their property. She mobilized her support network, worked with the city council, and created a ”Friends of Flint Chickens” Facebook campaign.

On the last day, Adair sat on her front porch and waited for the police to come. She highly doubted that in a city with only three police officers on duty at a time, one of them would take time away from chasing drug dealers and thieves, to chase her chickens. She waited all day. No one came.

Like her chickens, Roxanne Adair is in Flint to stay.


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Detroit Company Creates Fresh Food Pit Stops

IF YOU’RE ON THE HUNT for a fresh, ready-to-eat meal in Detroit, the best place to find it just might surprise you. Take the Sunoco station on Fort Street or the Victory Liquor and Food store on Warren Avenue. Amidst the Hot Cheetos and snack-sized Chips Ahoy cookies, you’ll find a cooler stocked with everything from fresh fruit and yogurt parfaits and spicy feta and hummus wraps to Thai chicken salads made with fresh, green lettuce—not the wilted iceberg you might expect.

The company behind the food might not be what you’d expect either. Fresh Corner Cafe (FCC) is a mission driven food and delivery service with the goal of making healthy food accessible to all Detroiters. To do this, they’ve turned to a most unlikely distribution center—neighborhood convenience stores.

For years, Detroit has been labeled a “food desert,” but that term is misleading. “It’s not that we don’t have grocery stores,” explains Detroit native and FCC co-founder Val Waller. “It’s that people have issues getting to them.”

According to a 2011 report from Data Driven Detroit, there are more than 115 grocery stores within Detroit’s city limits. In the years since that report was published, several high-profile grocery stores have opened stores in the city—including Whole Foods in June 2013 and Meijer in July 2013. But Detroit encompasses 138 square miles, the public transportation is undependable and some neighborhoods are simply not safe for walking. As a result, many Detroiters choose food from the closest of the more than 1,000 corner stores in the city.

“We’re trying to change the idea of what can be available in these spaces,” Waller explains. Initially FCC co-owner Noam Kimelman had to convince the shop owners that his products would sell. But Kimelman and Waller worked hard to build relationships with store owners and won over customers by providing free samples.

The idea for Fresh Corner Cafe came to Kimelman while he was studying at the University of Michigan. While working on his Masters of Health Management and Public Policy, he and his classmates came up with an idea for getting healthier food into urban areas. His first business, Get Fresh Detroit, launched in 2010 and offered for sale packets of food with fresh ingredients to make soup or stir fry. His goal was to make a gas station or convenience store a one-stop shop for fresh food ingredients. Kimelman soon learned that his customers were more interested in ready-to -eat meals, so he changed his business plan to offer pre-made meals.IMG_7849_edited-1

Kimelman recruited Waller, another U of M graduate, to join the company in 2011. Her degree in sociology and work experience in her family’s Detroit pizzeria have fueled her passion for creating an equitable local foodshed. She says access to good food should not be contingent on where someone lives.

Unlike most government interventions, says the Fresh Corner Café website, which “rely on big box retail to address healthy food access and obesity” the company’s goal is to “reduce barriers and uplift existing assets to provide a highly replicable and scalable solution with low capital requirements.”

Targeting convenience stores is an effective way to reach low-income shoppers. Fresh Corner Cafe sells to stores that are all certified to accept food assistance cards, also called Bridge cards. According to Data Driven Detroit, residents of Detroit spend twice as much of their Bridge card money at convenience stores as compared to the rest of Michigan‘s residents.

Fresh Corner Cafe works at a community level. They source fruit from Peaches and Greens, a locally owned produce market, and the wraps and salads come from Lunchtime Detroit, a sandwich shop. The staff lives locally and the drivers come from the communities to which they deliver. FCC delivers meals to 27 locations—including cafes, gas stations, and pharmacies—three times a week.

Currently the sales from the convenience stores do not generate enough revenue to turn a profit, so in order to keep the company sustainable, FCC expanded by placing their own self-serve to-go cafes in several Detroit workplaces. The company provides a fully-stocked refrigerator with a self-pay station and they stock and clean the shelves and handle all financial transactions. These workplace cafes makes it convenient for busy professionals to eat healthy and for businesses to provide fresh food to their employees.

So far, these strategies appear to be working. In August, Kimelman was recognized with a young entrepreneur SCORE award for pioneering the model and the company now employs six people.

Last year FCC sold some 30,000 meals bringing in $200,000 worth of revenue. Those numbers will continue to grow as FCC expands to more stores and offices. According to Waller, FCC plans to open their own certified kitchen, which will give them more control over ingredients and eventually allow them to introduce an organic line. “It is a social injustice for people to not have access to fresh food,” she says. “Detroiters are so used to not having things that they don’t even know how to ask for them.”


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Detroiters Connect in Shared Kitchens

IN MEXICANTOWN, on the Southwest side of Detroit, Chloe Sabatier makes French lava cakes. Sabatier sources as many of her ingredients as locally as possible, including raspberries, strawberries, and spices. She sells at farmers’ markets, cafes, restaurants, and specialty stores across the Detroit Metro area and her commercial kitchen is located in a banquet hall owned by Saints Peter and Paul Orthodox Cathedral. How is it that French delicacies are being made in a church started by Polish immigrants in a Mexican neighborhood? The answer is an innovative program called Detroit Kitchen Connect(DKC).

By making abandoned or underutilized commercial kitchens available to local food entrepreneurs, DKC helps residents start food businesses with a minimal investment. “It’s an asset-based approach to solving problems and finding the solutions in neighborhoods,” says Devita Davison, Community Kitchen Coordinator at Eastern Market Corporation. In July of 2013, Eastern Market—one of the oldest farmers’ market organizations in the country—joined with FoodLab Detroit—a network of food entrepreneurs dedicated to growing Detroit’s local food movement—to create DKC.

Detroit’s population shrank dramatically over the last few decades, dropping from 1.5 million in 1970 to 700,000 in 2012. While people may have left, however, many office buildings, churches, and community centers remain. Many of them have commercial kitchens that are used sparingly or not at all. Instead of seeing these buildings as liabilities and signs of decay, Davison sees them as assets in a city where many people are struggling to make ends meet.

Like kitchen incubators such as San Francisco’s La Cocina and Hot Bread Kitchen in Harlem, DKC charges a low hourly rate, which gives local entrepreneurs access to facilities that would normally be out of reach both geographically and financially. But its Detroit location sets DKC apart from other incubators around the nation, because the project also has the potential to bring forgotten neighborhoods back to life.

Take the Sts. Peter and Paul Orthodox Church. With its congregation shrinking and participation dwindling, the leaders were at a loss at how to connect with the community.

Before DKC got involved, the church had started a community garden and opened their banquet hall to rent for neighborhood celebrations, but the kitchen was only used on Sundays for a homeless outreach program. Now, the kitchen is a hub of activity that’s in use almost every day. Crème Detropolis makes gourmet sweet potato pies; Five Star Cakes makes traditional layered cakes.

With grant money from the United Way, DKC was able to give the church $5,000 for a new security system, a new door, security cameras, and outdoor lighting. “When we first started the program, this church was suffering,” Davison recalls. “Because the church didn’t have a good door, it was broken into several times.” Since the DKC upgrades, however, the break-ins have stopped.

And DKC provides services beyond the shared kitchen. DKC food artisans become part of the Eastern Market and FoodLab Detroit community of businesses. With these connections DKC tenants learn where to find local ingredients, where to sell their products, and how to navigate the city bureaucracy. Within this community, established business owners share their successes and failures with DKC’s fledgling food entrepreneurs.

As part of DKC, Detroit entrepreneurs also get help with the licensing process—another barrier to starting a food business. There are two types of licenses in the state of Michigan. The first license is for packaged food and is pretty affordable at $70 to $175. But the second type of license is for an entrepreneur who serves food such as caterers, restaurateurs, and food trucks. That license comes from the city of Detroit and costs $1,500, which is around three to four times more than any other city or county in the state.

“In a city that needs to promote entrepreneurism, in a city that is talking about using food as a conduit to grow the local economy, these barriers of entry are stifling growth,” Davison says. Her next task is to work with the city of Detroit to make the catering license accessible to more entrepreneurs.

Currently, 10 licensed entrepreneurs work in DKC’s two kitchens. April M. Anderson used to bake out of her home (under the Michigan cottage food law) but she had to turn down larger orders because her home kitchen was too small. Through DKC, she was able to rent space in a commercial kitchen and within a few months opened Good Cakes and Bakes in a retail space in Detroit. Anderson bakes at the DKC kitchen from 3 to 6:30 am and then heads to her shop at 7:00 am.
“I don’t know if April would have been able to open her bakery if she’d had to purchase hundreds and thousands of dollars of equipment,” says Davison. “She understands full well that this is what she has to do to buy her own kitchen. Until then we are her bakehouse.”

Unlike kitchen incubators in cities that receive generous public funding, Davison says, “What we’ve done here is scrappy. We haven’t gotten a dime from the city.” Private funders, including the United Way of Southeast Michigan and the McGregor Foundation, have footed the bill since the program began.

With nearly a year under their belt and some visible success stories, DKC hopes to expand and open more kitchens. The goals, says Davison, go far beyond food. “We are building a more inclusive food economy in Detroit,” she says. “We are challenging the social, political, and economic structures that reinforce inequities.”


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