DC Food Co-op + Hub

DC Food Co-op + Hub

United StatesUnited States
Project Stage:
$50,000 - $100,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

We are developing DC's first worker-owned food co-op. We are using a storefront and commercial kitchen model to provide opportunities for local culinary professionals to get their start, local farmers to increase revenues, and increasing our access to nutritious foods, and fair job opportunities.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Healthy food access is very important to alleviate poverty, hunger, and promote healthy lifestyles. In Washington DC, we have no laws against gardening in/in front of one's own yard/home, and a decent amount of greenery. But an overwhelming number of people are still using food stamps. We have multiple food deserts, and a lot of our food comes from elsewhere. We need fair food and jobs that benefit everyone of every socioeconomic status.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

We plan to partner with the national, non-profit, youth-led organization Grand Aspirations to develop a worker-owned food co-op with using a storefront and commercial kitchen model. It is the aim of this organization to have a food hub that will serve as the preliminary DC area source for local food production, and agricultural green business incubation, inclusive of youth-led education projects, and resources. We will be able to provide a venue for emerging restaurateurs to have pilots, as well as to hold special events that are often philanthropic in nature. We are putting health, and ownership back into the hands of the local community. With this co-op, we are tying up the loose ends of directly-related issues and in turn solving them.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

By having a worker-owned food co-op, our members can help make the decisions of where their food comes from, and contribute to the honesty in marketing its' products. We can provide a dedicated customer to local farmers that will keep their revenues up, and continue to provide healthy, nutritious food access that is easily accessible to local people. None will wonder where their food came from and what's in it if they can easily go visit the farmers; none of its' employees will have to suffer from lack of benefits and low wages working for a large retailer if they are decision-makers and share-holders.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

There are a few other commercial kitchens in the design/development phase here in DC, as well as a few worker-owned restaurant ideas that we've heard of. Because good food - both as an artistic, commercial product and as a necessity to life- is becoming more popular, simultaneously as the green movement is gaining traction again, we find that both concepts should be completely, and directly involved in our co-op. Ecovillage DC includes a food hub in their intentional community model, but found an identical community project called Green Ivy City. Instead of competing, we aim to partner.
About You
DC Food Co-op
About You
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About Your Project
Organization Name

DC Food Co-op

Organization Country
Country where this project is creating social impact
How long has your organization been operating?

Less than a year

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Your Solution
Founding Story: Share a story about the “Aha!” moment that led you to get started and/or to see the potential for this to succeed.

When I graduated from high school in 2009, I wished I had somewhere to execute all my hobbies as social businesses. I cared a lot about the environment and was only just getting into gardening and the issue of mass consumption, waste, and food access fell onto my plate. I originally didn't incorporate food restaurants into my executive summary.
By working with Grand Aspirations' DC Team, I met the founders of Zenful Bites - a catering company that also provides culinary skills training to under-served youths. I learned abut worker-owned co-ops, and the connections between local food production, social entrepreneurship, food access, and youth education programs, and healthy lifestyles was undeniable. We shared complimentary visions.

Select Sector(s): To which of Unilever's categories of sustainability does your solution apply?

Nutrition, Waste, Sustainable Agriculture, Smallholder Farmers.

Measurable Impact
Audience: Who have you identified as your customers/recipients and why? How will you get your solution to them or engage them in your initiative?

Anyone in the local DC community who eats food is a potential customer. Any budding culinary professional that wants to host a pop-up, or an existing restaurant that wants to buy from a local farmer's market and in turn be a co-op member will be our customers.
We will spread awareness by tabling at or sponsoring events, holding special events about sustainable development. We'll also use existing/partnering youth environmental education programs to get students, parents, and schools involved.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date and expected impact in the future?

So far, we have held meetings with our core members bi-weekly since July 2013, and this subcommittee spun off from a larger co-operative housing development group called Ecovillage DC which has been meeting for over a year.
At this point, we have found a group to conduct our feasibility study, and are trying to raise funds for it. We have a few co-op members partnering to cultivate a demonstration garden at Mamie D. Lee community garden with participants in a girls empowerment program called Green Girls Go! to learn to grow and harvest the produce for Zenful Bites and our fundraisers. Through the expansion of this garden and the cultivation of our friends and families yards, we will develop a CSA.

Growth, Finance & Leadership
Scaling the Solution: How do you intend to scale your activities over the next two years (e.g., reach new markets, diversify solutions, etc.)? What will make this possible?

In 2014, we plan to raise money for our feasibility study We will use Grand Aspirations' platforms to create summer youth leadership programs that become/incubate year-round profitable green businesses, and through our multiple local partnerships, we will combine resources to develop an impact hub.
Through Grand Aspirations, we've already done our first Summer of Solutions in DC, which we are transitioning out of to start our Local Initiative - the DC worker-owned food co-op. In February, we will propose to the national hub development working group/team that DC should be the next site for a hub to be created in partnership with Grand Aspirations.
Hub City/Impact Hub is coming to DC, and is headed by an Ecovillage DC member, Max Harper.

Financial Sustainability: What is your business model to ensure financial sustainability?

In DC, we will probably apply as an LLC because we intend to be a for-profit, worker-owned co-operative.
As a co-op, we will have many resources to support the business, which will act as a cushion for mistakes and experimenting with marketing during the start-up phase.

Experience: Please provide examples of any previous entrepreneurial initiatives you have pioneered.

I have not pioneered any other previous profitable initiatives, so far. I'm corresponding with designers for the development of a sustainable fashion co-operative.
Mainly applying to start 3 new programs in DC in addition to this co-op through Grand Aspirations: one is a garage/bike-share year-round program, the second is an aquaponics summer working group/youth education program w/ CSA development, and the third is a girls empowerment program.