We're excited to share the first of five videos profiling FIN Food Business Incubator participants! This week the spotlight is on Soozveen Mediterranean Catering.Sisters Sheelan and Zozan founded Soozveen because they wanted to share family recipes and stories. Try their dolmas, hummus, falafel, and other dishes made from scratch and flavored with the spices of Northern Iraq. And don't forget dessert -- their baklava and jasmine cookies are out of this world!Check out Soozveen’s menu, learn more about our Food Business Incubator, and stay tuned for videos featuring Sherehe Kenya Kitchen, Naija Buka, Mamá Tila Catering, and Taste of Congo coming out over the next four weeks!
Our Incubator pilot program hit some big milestones in 2018! Participants share how it’s helped them in our new video; here's a breakdown by the numbers:
- five new businesses launched since late 2017
- over 55 catering orders coordinated through FIN
- 21 farmers market days through our Taste Around the Globe booth at the Federal Way and Renton farmers markets
- Make a tax-deductible gift. Your contribution to our Tukwila Village Food Hall capital campaign will help expand the Food Business Incubator and support entrepreneurs’ access to affordable kitchen space.
- Volunteer to help aspiring entrepreneurs build sustainable businesses. Next month, three more food businesses will join our Incubator. We're looking for volunteers with graphic design and marketing skills to help entrepreneurs develop brand assets and establish a presence on online marketing platforms. You can read the volunteer position description here, and please help us spread the word!
- Hire FIN entrepreneurs. Check out their menus and make your catering order now! Then stay tuned to this site, where we'll release a new video profile of each food business over the next five weeks.
Big thanks to our funding partnersWe're grateful to the Port of Seattle, Communities of Opportunity, and Seattle Foundation for their generous support of the Food Business Incubator and Tukwila Village Food Hall.
Use your graphic design or marketing skills to help an emerging entrepreneur launch a new food business! Branding and marketing support is a vital component of FIN’s Food Business Incubator program, which assists entrepreneurs through training, mentoring, and affordable commercial kitchen space. Most program participants are refugees and immigrants with low household incomes.Learn how the Incubator helps participants improve their economic security and build community connections.Responsibilities:
- Meet with an entrepreneur to develop their branding and/or marketing plan.
- Branding volunteer will collaborate with the entrepreneur to design a menu, and potentially a logo and business card.
- Marketing volunteer will establish and develop the business’ presence on web/social platforms. Depending on the marketing plan, this may include Facebook, Instagram, and/or other apps and websites.
- Volunteer will ensure the entrepreneur is able to maintain their web/social presence and update their marketing materials independently.
- Experience in graphic design and/or business marketing is required. Formal training in these skills is preferred.
- Commitment to racial and social justice is required. Experience collaborating with people from diverse backgrounds is preferred.
Last year, with your help, FIN:
- added a new Tukwila Village location to Namaste Farm Stand, and offered a total of 39 farm stand days. Together with our partners at IRC New Roots, we became authorized to accept SNAP/EBT payment as well as Fresh Bucks, and we made locally grown produce affordable and accessible for hundreds of customers. Hear from a few of them in this video.
- supported local food entrepreneurs in launching and growing five new businesses. We also established the Taste Around the Globe booth at the Renton and Federal Way farmers markets; this gives the entrepreneurs an opportunity to build a customer base. In coming weeks we’ll debut video profiles of all these business owners – keep an eye on this site!
- hosted five Community Kitchen Dinners, a Food and Community Resource Fair, and four cooking classes – all led by community members.
- expanded our cohort of Community Food Advocates from six to nine. These advocates are at the heart of FIN’s work, from driving our annual planning to leading a training on intercultural leadership development for FIN partners.
- provided a two-part workshop on food access resources. Participants then shared these resources with their communities through presentations at ESL classes, social media posts, and other outreach.
- began facilitating the South King Urban Agriculture Network of more than 15 partners focused on supporting land access opportunities and resource coordination for aspiring food growers. We also provided a daylong Farming in King County workshop for refugee and immigrant community members.
As we closed Namaste Farm Stand’s second season with a celebration dinner, community members told us about their experiences at the stand. Hear what they had to say in our new video:Maria told us that easy access to fresh vegetables helped her control her diabetes. Clo said that her body was healing, and that she also felt better in mind and spirit. Melody shared that she’d lost 60 pounds in the five months since she started visiting the farm stand. She said she learned about nutrition from our partners at WSU Extension’s Food $ense, who provided cooking demonstrations at our Tukwila location.[caption id="attachment_2607" align="aligncenter" width="500"] WSU Extension's Food $ense team and FIN staff provided a total of 28 demos of how to turn farm stand produce into delicious meals and snacks. Bike blender smoothies facilitated by Anna from Food $ense were always popular items.[/caption] Maria, Clo, and Melody were among hundreds of community members who visited Namaste Farm Stand in Tukwila and SeaTac this season, which ran from early June until late October. We sold fruits, vegetables, and herbs from local producers including IRC New Roots’ Community Garden (Tukwila), Faith Beyond Farms (Enumclaw), and Collins Family Orchard (Selah) at affordable prices.[caption id="attachment_2609" align="aligncenter" width="500"] Community members who grow food at New Roots' Namaste Community Garden helped prepare our celebration dinner.[/caption] The farm stand launched in 2017 with 10 farm stand days at Matt Griffin YMCA in SeaTac. In 2018, we added a second location at Tukwila Village Plaza and extended the number of stand days to 39. In August, we were approved to accept SNAP/EBT, and began doubling customers’ EBT dollars through the Fresh Bucks program.Namaste Farm Stand is operated by Food Innovation Network and International Rescue Committee’s New Roots program with support from the City of Tukwila, Kona Kai, Communities of Opportunity, Les Dames d’ Escoffier, Matt Griffin YMCA, SHAG, and WSU Extension.Thanks to our partners, food producers, and customers for a fantastic season! We look forward to starting our third season in June of 2019.[caption id="attachment_2608" align="aligncenter" width="500"] We had a great time eating fresh produce with our wonderful community at our celebration dinner.[/caption]
Incubator program participant Ofelia Anorve brings authentic dishes from across Mexico to the Seattle area. Check out Mamá Tila's catering menu, and read on for our Q & A with Ofelia.Tell us about your business.My business specializes in traditional Mexican food.How did get the idea for your business? A lot of people would tell me that my food was really good, and I should have my own business. Also, there was a lack of traditional Mexican food in the Seattle area.What makes you different from other catering companies?I take my time when I cook my food, and I do it with love.What do you like best about your work?What I think is best about my work is seeing people enjoy my food.What is something people might be surprised to learn about you or your business?I think people would be surprised to learn that my food is authentic, fresh, delicious and healthy.What’s your business’ biggest challenge?My biggest challenge is that if my business is growing fast, I can be under stress since I am running it alone.What would you say to other small food business owners thinking of working with FIN?I would say that FIN is really helpful and you learn a lot.Contact Ofelia: (206) 265-9746 or firstname.lastname@example.org
We are thrilled to announce that Namaste Farm Stand has been authorized to accept EBT benefits and Fresh Bucks coupons! People have been asking to use EBT benefits at the farm stand since our grand opening. We knew it was a need; our community survey results showed people would use their EBT benefits at the farm stands, and SeaTac and Tukwila has some of the highest SNAP participation rates in King County. Tukwila has the highest rate among seniors 65 and older – 30 percent use SNAP benefits compared to the countywide average of 12 percent.Starting at our Tukwila location on Aug. 15, and in SeaTac later this month (stay tuned for the exact date), community members will be able to purchase fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs from the weekly farm stand using their EBT dollars (also known as SNAP, Basic Food or Food Stamps). In addition, EBT cardholders can get a dollar-for-dollar match through the Fresh Bucks program.
The challengeWe began the application process last fall, but had a challenging time moving forward largely due our unique model. We’re not a farmers market. We’re not the farmers. We’re a mobile farm stand operated by a nonprofit that buys wholesale from local growers to then sell directly to the community. This all made it challenging to check of the necessary boxes in the application and submit. However, thanks to the dedication of many partners, we were able to get clear guidance from USDA’s Food Nutrition Services (FNS), the federal agency that manages EBT retailer authorization.We would like to extend a BIG thank you to partners that helped us through the application process. FIN and IRC’s New Roots Program received support from King County Public Health, WSU SNAP-Ed and WA Farmers Market Association.
How Fresh Bucks worksCustomers purchasing fruits and vegetables with their EBT card get matching Fresh Bucks equal in value to the fresh produce purchased ($2-for-$2 in Fresh Bucks). For example, the customer purchases $6 of fresh fruits and vegetables using their EBT card. They then get $6 in Fresh Bucks to spend on produce in another transaction. The Fresh Bucks do not need to be used at that time—they expire at the end of year and can be used at any participating location.
Help us spread the word!We need your support to raise awareness in the community. Please:
- Post and share this flier around the community.
- Distribute these fliers to community members, clients, or program participants.
- Share this Facebook video:
- Create your own Facebook video in other languages. Don’t forget to tag Food Innovation Network.
- Request a presentation by FIN staff or Community Food Advocate to come talk to about this and other food resources in the community. We can come to classes, workshops and community meetings and present in many different languages. If interested, please email Kamal Adhikari at email@example.com.
- Visit Namaste Farm Stand and get some fresh, local fruits and veggies!
Last week, dozens of community members joined us to share food and stories at Community Kitchen Night, a quarterly event we co-present with the City of SeaTac. This time, we took the celebration outdoors for a barbecue at North SeaTac Park.[caption id="attachment_2492" align="alignright" width="300"] Nga Reh made delicious chicken at Community Kitchen Night.[/caption]Here's what Community Food Advocate Nga Reh said about the evening:
"I had such a wonderful time. It was a great idea to make it an outdoor activity, and I liked the way we shared foods from each of our communities. This was my first time serving food. At first, I was afraid that the people wouldn't like the foods I served. I'm glad that they did! And it was great that anyone could join. If I have another chance, I will participate again!"Thanks to everyone who came out for this great gathering! Check out more pictures on Facebook. Then mark your calendars for our next Community Kitchen Night, which will be at SeaTac Community Center on Sept. 26.
We're excited to introduce you to incubator program participant Caroline Musitu! Her new business, Taste of Congo, has been a hit at farmers markets in Renton and Federal Way this summer. Visit her at a farmers market, check out Taste of Congo's catering menu, and read on for our Q & A with Caroline.Tell us about your business.My business is a catering food service. I cook African food -- Congolese food. I make samosas, rice with vegetables, goat, chicken, salad, French donuts called beignets, and more.What inspired you to start this business?I am from Congo, from Kinshasa, a beautiful city where people like to dance and to eat. There’s lots of parties and celebration. When I was young, my mom used to do catering for weddings, parties, and church; I used to help her make things. But when I came here, my Congolese community would just cook food on their own for events. I said, Why not start a business cooking for them? Special events like weddings happen once in your life, and you have to have food that wows!What makes you different from other catering companies?I have the only Congolese food business in the area! Once people try Congolese food, they’ll know it’s good. It’s very fresh and healthy, too.What do you like best about your work?When my food makes people happy.What is something people might be surprised to learn about you or your business?I’ve cooked since I was 10 years old. When people visited, I’d go to the kitchen and cook for them. My siblings don’t like to cook, but I love it. My mom showed me how to cook, but I like to invent new recipes; I don’t like to do the same thing, I want to keep it fresh and different.What’s your business’ biggest challenge?I’m learning how the market works, and how to present Congolese food to people who aren’t Congolese.What services or programs have been helpful?Ventures and FIN have helped with the business side: the formal lessons, marketing, calculation, prices.What would you say to other small food business owners thinking of working with FIN?FIN are good people to work with; they help us small businesses to get started, grow, and even become big businesses.Contact Caroline: 206.778.5615, firstname.lastname@example.org, Taste of Congo on Facebook
One of the barriers that keep families and individuals from meeting their daily food needs is not knowing about the resources available in the community. To increase awareness throughout the community, FIN held a four-hour workshop in June about how these programs and benefits work, who’s eligible, and how to access them.The 16 workshop participants learned about resources such as SNAP, WIC, food banks and meal programs, School and Summer Meal Programs, Fresh Bucks and Farmers Market Nutrition Program, and community gardens. Now the participants are equipped to help spread the word, and are able to do so in many languages.Here's what FIN Community Food Advocate and Steering Committee Co-Chair Gladis Clemente said about the training:
"I learned that food access is not simply a health issue, but also a community development issue. There are resources out there that can help those who struggle to afford enough food. As an Advocate, I think it's really important to promote these resources and share the facts with everyone, because there are some myths about the requirements to apply for this programs, and nobody should struggle to afford food for their families."Thanks to our partners, WSU Food $ense Program, Within Reach, United Way of King County and Tukwila Pantry, for presenting and sharing this valuable information.And a BIG thanks to the 16 participants who committed the time and energy to doing this important community outreach.If you are interested in having one of workshop participants present at a community event, meeting or class, please contact Kamal Adhikari at email@example.com.