The Good Kitchen is an accelerator program that supports social enterprises working to solve food poverty, or the reduced access to adequate or nutritious food. The accelerator enables organizations to address major challenges in the food system by providing startups with funding, business training, and mentorship so more innovative ideas may reach the market.
The Good Kitchen was launched in 2016 as an initiative of the KellyDeli Foundation. The accelerator is currently working with their first group of five startup organizations. Food Tank had the chance to speak with Joseph Gridley from the Good Kitchen about the types of initiatives they support, what food poverty means for them, and why investors should focus on innovation in the food system.
Food Tank (FT): How does The Good Kitchen support social entrepreneurs working in food?
Joseph Gridley (JG): The Good Kitchen offers a bespoke support package to the food social entrepreneurs it selects. We spend time getting to know each selected organization—understanding their strengths and challenges—and then we compile a personalized program of support. This support consists of investment (in the form of low-interest loans), business training (delivered in partnership with leading institutions, online and face-to-face), mentorship (with individuals with 10+ years relevant experience), and introductions and access to key markets needed for them to be successful.
FT: What is “food poverty,” and why do you choose to use that term to describe the work that these organizations do?
JG: We define food poverty as a group or individual not having access to an adequate or nutritious diet. With such a broad definition, the approaches to tackling food poverty are vast: from urban agriculture to food tech, and from edible education to redistributing surplus food.
We choose the term food poverty because the first thing we want to know when selecting organizations for The Good Kitchen is whether ‘as a result of the organization’s work, will substantially more people have access to an adequate and nutritious diet, either now or in the foreseeable future?’
FT: How is The Good Kitchen filling a gap in the community of food organizations and social entrepreneurs?
JG: The Good Kitchen was founded with one main purpose: to identify social businesses that tackle food poverty in a scalable and sustainable way. Though many great food social enterprises and accompanying support organizations exist, the majority focus on sustainably and ethically produced consumer products. Though these organizations create important changes to the food system, the end product is often prohibitively expensive for people experiencing food poverty (for example, Port of Mokha, Emmer & Co and Rubies in the Rubble). The Good Kitchen is the first accelerator in Europe with the primary aim of tackling of food poverty.
FT: What are some of the specific challenges in the food system that social entrepreneurs are tackling?
JG: The first five organizations that we are supporting illustrate some of the challenges facing the food system and are reimagining it in their own way to ensure everyone, everywhere has access to an adequate, nutritious, and sustainably produced diet in a variety of ways.
Cultivando Futuro has built the first online platform to connect smallholder farmers to wholesalers to tackle the challenges posed by food waste, to increase efficiencies in distribution, and to help pay farmers a fair wage.
Entocycle is automating the production of insect protein to disrupt current unsustainable fish and livestock farming practices. For example, 4 million hectares of forest are destroyed each year in South America, primarily for the cultivation of soy for animals and fish. Through providing an alternative to soy through insect-protein, Entocycle will be putting thousands of hectares of land back into use for crops for human consumption.
Fazla Gida has developed the technology to easily and profitably distribute supermarket food surplus to food banks and humanitarian organizations. Each year, Turkey–where they operate—throws away US$2 billion of edible food. Through redirecting this food to people in need, they can make an impact on food poverty and the refugee crisis.
Make Kit distributes low-cost, nutritious recipe kits through community outlets to tackle childhood obesity and malnutrition in urban settings. Their intervention grew out of a National Health Service report on the causes of obesity in London.
Mimica Lab has produced the first biologically accurate food-spoilage indicator; a game-changer in the fight against food waste in the home. The average UK family throws away £470 (US$600) of safe and edible food each year—the cost equivalent of 8 weeks food for the average UK family. By helping people know when their food is safe to eat, families will have more money to spend on nutritious food.
FT: Why do you think investors should fund organizations that are working to build a better food system?
JG: We believe that investing in a better food system has the potential for great returns socially, environmentally, and financially.
Ridiculous levels of obesity and malnutrition, unimaginable food waste, crippling contracts for farmers, emptying oceans: the stories of our broken food system are well documented. Equally, there is broad consensus that supporting innovation is key to finding alternative food-systems that do not damage people and planet. However, without external investment, innovation remains in the hands of a small group of food and agriculture businesses. For context, just six companies control 70 percent of the world’s seed market, four corporations control 75 percent of the global grain market and 26 percent of global food markets is controlled by ten food processing companies.
We need to blow open the food and agriculture sector to demonstrate that it is possible for a business to make money and enable a world where everyone, everywhere can eat a healthy and sustainably sourced diet.
Investing in better food systems reminds me of similar discussions about renewable energy twenty years ago. Renewable energy was expensive, it was fringe and few people wanted to invest. Now, wind and solar energy are cheaper per unit than coal and over US$280 billion was invested in renewables in 2015. I believe the same will happen in investing in sustainable food systems but we need bold, early investors to help us scale the best organizations and innovations.