Nine Awardees are Locally Owned Food Businesses in Wards 5, 7, and 8
While Washington, DC has a vibrant food and restaurant community, food businesses owned by people of color still struggle to participate due to the lack of opportunities to access capital. In an effort to build a more equitable food ecosystem, the Nourish DC Collaborative – in partnership with DC Mayor Muriel Bowser – announced its first round of grants – totaling $400,000 – to support locally owned food businesses, especially in neighborhoods underserved by grocery stores and other food businesses. The nine awardees are local BIPOC-owned food businesses in Wards 5, 7, and 8 that are providing healthy, affordable, and culturally appropriate food for DC residents. Seven of the awardees are women-owned businesses.
The grant awardees include:
- A1 Grocery Store;
- Circle 7 Food and Grocery Market
- Mechos Dominican Kitchen;
- Pinke’s Eats;
- Plum Good;
- Rich Capital Concepts (VeggieDC Farmers Market);
- Three Part Harmony Farm;
- Turning Natural Juice Bar; and
- Wellfound Foods
The Nourish DC Collaborative – created with the support of a $1 million grant from the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) – is intended to help grow a robust and equitable ecosystem of locally-owned food businesses across the District. The goal is to foster an inclusive food system that provides access to healthy, affordable, and culturally appropriate food, particularly in communities impacted by historic disinvestment and structural racism, which have long been underserved by grocery and other food amenities. Similarly, the program strives to promote economic opportunity, enabling locals to establish or grow their food-based businesses and create jobs for others in the community. This investment continues Mayor Bowser’s effort to improve food access, create new employment opportunities, and stimulate economic development in the District.
“Capital Impact Partners is thrilled to partner with the District of Columbia to provide these grants to locally owned food businesses that are working in our underserved communities,” said Ellis Carr, president and CEO of Capital Impact Partners and CDC Small Business Finance. “This is just the first step in what we hope will be a long partnership providing much-needed funding to support an equitable food system in Washington, DC.”
The awardees represent a wide array of food sectors and include a grocery store, a caterer, a food truck, a corner store, a restaurant, a farmers market, and a food processor.
Awards ranged from $10,000 to $50,000 per business. Applicants were required to have a physical location in DC, with preference given to businesses increasing access to healthy food and creating jobs in priority Wards 5, 7, and 8.
The grants were flexible in nature, allowing for the funds to be leveraged for a range of activities, including new product development, marketing, technology, real estate acquisition, construction, and tenant improvements.
More than 180 businesses applied for the first round of Nourish DC catalytic grants, and nine awardees were selected through a review process involving all of the Nourish DC Collaborative lending and technical assistance partners.
In addition to these nine grant awardees, Nourish DC has supported the disbursement of six loans and 88 businesses have received 1:1 or cohort-based technical assistance. For example, the Benning Market project is receiving a $15 million loan package from multiple lenders including Capital Impact Partners, with Nourish DC providing the gap financing to establish Market 7 as the project’s anchor tenant. Benning Market is a 24,000-square-foot neighborhood-serving commercial development project focused on food, health and entrepreneurship located in Ward 7. Market 7 will create an open concept retail community market space where local entrepreneurs can lease storefronts and kiosk spaces. Market 7 has been in business for four years as a pop-up food and retail market working with 60 small businesses. The permanent marketplace will feature local, Black-owned businesses, hire about 50 employees primarily from the neighborhood, and provide healthy food options and retail opportunities in Ward 7.
The Nourish DC Collaborative partners include Capital Impact Partners (CIP), lender and Collaborative administrator; Washington Area Community Investment Fund (WACIF), lender and technical assistance provider; Latino Economic Development Center (LEDC), lender and technical assistance provider; Dreaming Out Loud, technical assistance provider; and EatsPlace, lender and technical assistance provider. Together, the Collaborative provides flexible loans, technical assistance and catalytic grants to emerging and existing locally owned food businesses.
Nourish DC Grantees Reflect on their Awards
“The Nourish DC catalytic grant is the first grant of its kind that I have seen offered in DC during the 10 years that I have owned a vegetable farm in this city,” said Nourish DC awardee Gail Taylor from Three Part Harmony Farm. “Whoever wrote the grant description and eligibility information really took the time to understand how to make it possible for a production farm to take advantage of the opportunity.”
“The Nourish DC grant comes at a crucial moment where small businesses are struggling to deal with major price hikes, employee retention, and surging utility prices,” said Nourish DC awardee Raymond Compres from Mechos Dominican Kitchen. “These funds will help us to continue to keep our doors open by giving us the ability to buy provisions and to help keep our employees on payroll instead of sending them home or slashing their hours.”
Awardee Pinkey Reddick from Pinke’s Eats said, “the Nourish DC Catalytic Grant is important for our business because it will allow us to scale at a faster pace, provide efficiency in daily operations, and make funds available to us to purchase uniform packaging. The Nourish DC Catalytic Grant supports our business by providing financial resources to purchase equipment, invest in marketing, and invest in staff, which will create 8-10 full-time and 15-20 part-time positions by 2023.”
Overview of Round 1 Nourish DC Collaborative Grant Awardees:
Ayub, Inc. A1 Grocery Store ($50,000) is a full-service grocery store in Ward 7 that has been in business for more than 30 years and was purchased by its current owner in 2018. Grant funding will be used to upgrade the facility to improve customer experience and to purchase a new freezer, point of sale system, and other equipment, which will allow the store to improve sales and continue to expand healthy food inventory.
Circle 7 Food and Grocery Market ($50,000) is the only store selling a full-line of healthy food including fresh fruits and vegetables 24 hours a day in Ward 5. It has partnered with DC Central Kitchen and DC WIC to ensure it sells healthy food in the neighborhood and can accept WIC and SNAP. Grant funding will be used to purchase food refrigeration equipment to continue to expand fresh fruit and vegetable offerings, as well as to update store signage to promote the store’s healthy food offerings.
Mechos Dominican Kitchen at Dakota Crossing LLC ($10,000) is a caterer and fast casual restaurant in Ward 5, which opened in 2019 and serves traditional food from the Dominican Republic. Mechos also caters meals for local schools, churches, and institutions. Grant funding will be used to support the delivery of wholesome, catered meals to churches, food banks, and other food outreach programs.
Pinke’s Eats ($50,000) is a caterer and mobile food truck in Ward 7 committed to providing healthy food options to neighborhood residents, schools, churches, private sector businesses, institutions, and emergency food providers. Grant funding will be used to finance equipment, marketing support, an online ordering platform, and start-up food truck staffing.
Plum Good LLC ($50,000) is based in Ward 8 and sells packaged culinary and wellness teas, herbs, spices, jams, sauces, popcorn, and gourmet snacks to consumers and businesses locally and online. It also provides health and nutrition certified training services. Plum Good will share a new commercial kitchen to begin packaging products, and the Grant funding will be used to purchase processing equipment and the technical assistance to successfully use the equipment.
Rich Capital Concepts (VeggieDC Farmers Market) ($50,000) is a 501(c)(3) in Ward 5 specializing in youth development, social service, and green projects. It has a community farmers’ market business called VeggieDC Farmers Market providing fresh fruits and vegetables to neighborhoods often lacking healthy food options. Grant funding will support the COVID-19 pivot from a farmers’ market to a mobile delivery service which has increased healthy food access in Wards 7 and 8. The funding will be used to finance a delivery van, additional inventory, refrigerators, food processing tables, and additional staff.
Three Part Harmony Farm LLC ($50,000) was established in Ward 5 in 2012 and is the largest urban farm in the District, primarily growing vegetables sold to local families. In 2021, Three Part Harmony Farm sold produce to 100 families within a few miles of the farm through community-supported agriculture (CSA) sales. The farm also grows and sells vegetable and flower seedlings. Grant funding will be used to purchase two hoop houses to extend the growing season, a walk-in cooler, and additional staff to support increased harvests.
Turning Natural Juice Bar ($50,000) has served healthy food options in Ward 8 since 2015. The food offerings include cold-pressed fruit/vegetable juice and smoothies as well as vegan and vegetarian food. Grant funding will be used to expand its mobile app, delivery options, and the marketing team, and to purchase menu expansion inventory and equipment.
Wellfound Foods ($40,000) makes grab-and-go prepared food for health-conscious people. The food is delivered via wholesale distribution to retailers and direct-to-consumer distribution through Wellfound’s network of 24-hour, tech-enabled, unattended, SmartMarkets kiosks located in a 35-mile radius of the commissary kitchen in Ward 5. Grant funding will be used to build out the in-house, cold-chain distribution capabilities by purchasing a refrigerated van and adding staff so the company is not as reliant on a third-party distributor. The grant will also allow a pilot program with the Capital Area Food Bank to bring SmartMarkets to Wards 5, 7, and 8 in the next two years.
Source: Capital Impact Partners