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In Edible-Alpha® podcast #46, Tera interviews Alex Linkow, Director of the Fair Food Fund, the impact investing arm of Fair Food Network. For the past 10 years, Fair Food Network has been developing creative solutions that work across the food system to support farmers, strengthen local economies and increase access to healthy food – especially in low-income communities. Fair Food Network is also a founding partner in the Michigan Good Food Fund, a statewide $30 million public private partnership loan fund, in which it leads pipeline development and business assistance.
Fair Food Fund provides flexible and patient investment capital to early stage entrepreneurs who are growing community health and wealth through food. It comes to the table with an innovative investment approach combining customized financing and business assistance—two critical gaps enterprises face as they grow. Such integrated capital investments have allowed the Fund to provide needed capital to entrepreneurs while generating reliable financial returns and outsized social impact.
Alex and Tera discussed the importance of the delivering the right kind of capital for such community-based enterprises. Alex also underscored the importance of pairing capital with business assistance to help entrepreneurs translate their passion into profit. Serving up financing and business assistance in combination with networks allows the Fair Food Fund to meet the needs of a wide variety of good food entrepreneurs.
As an impact-first fund, it is harnessing the power of food to transform communities for good with a focus on increasing healthy food access, family farm viability, as well as job creation and economic development. In addition, it is bringing an inclusive lens to its work to ensure it is meeting the needs of women entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs of color – two groups that have been historically overlooked by traditional financing sources.
Seeded with a 2012 challenge grant of $3.75 million, the Fair Food Fund has attracted a total of $6.4+ million in grants and program related investments from more than 20 funders. Since then, the Fund has provided more than $3.6 million in financing and business assistance to over 80 enterprises across 9 states in the Northeastern U.S. Such investments have in turn created over 150 jobs, supported over 1,000 family farms, and stimulated $25 million in local purchasing.