The Urban Food Loop
Growing up I was a very picky eater. It wasn’t until I experienced serious health issues that I looked closely at my diet. I needed a change. In 2007 I left Arkansas and spent a summer living on an organic farm in Costa Rica. During that time I studied with permaculture design experts and world class chefs. My relationship with food dramatically transformed and I felt healthier than ever before. In 2012 I completed a culinary apprenticeship at Circle Yoga Shala where I trained as an Ayurvedic chef. Here I learned to prepare culinary prescriptions for various health conditions. The most important thing I learned on both farms was that healthy food comes from healthy soil, and healthy soil is like well-designed architecture: it takes careful planning and construction. I moved back to Little Rock and began composting and growing produce at home. I wanted to build the urban food community so more people could experience the most powerful medicine: fresh food. In 2013 I began studying at The Clinton School of Public Service where I was awarded a grant from the Clinton Global Initiative University program to start The Urban Food Loop. Also, while at the Clinton School I met a lovely woman who was studying urban agriculture and public policy. Naturally we fell in love, got engaged, and have decided to spend the rest of our days building the “farm to table & back again” movement, focusing on creating a large scale composting operation. After a successful first year in business we are looking to expand our services and sell our compost in retail markets. We aim to provide a high quality natural fertilizer to small farmers and home growers across Arkansas while advancing the fight against food waste and food insecurity in the Natural State.
This loan is special because:
More about this loan
Every year the U.S. loses $165 billion because 40% of food grown in the U.S. ends up in landfills, 33 million tons in total, and each ton produces 4 times its weight in greenhouse gases. Facts both staggering and unacceptable. Arkansans grapple with some of the highest rates of food insecurity and child hunger in the country. The Urban Food Loop was established in June of 2015 in order to advance our bourgeoning local foods culture by making communities compostable and fight food insecurity. Using mutually beneficial community partnerships and market based solutions, we aim to solve the issue of food waste and food insecurity in central Arkansas. We have partnered with Heifer International, the City of Little Rock, and the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance to create a unique business model. How It Works: Customers sign up for our service and receive a ceramic bin for their kitchen counter and a 5 gallon bucket for their porch. All week customers toss food scraps into their bin/bucket. Each week we come by and switch out their full buckets with clean ones. We take their kitchen scraps to our composting facility at Heifer International, and with the help of a team of experts, we turn food waste into the highest quality compost. Customers are given the option to have this compost returned to their homes every season for gardening, or to donate it to one of the five Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance Gleaning Gardens we’ve helped build in LR City Parks. We’re proud to say that 1/3 of our customers donate their compost, which has helped our community partners produce over 10,000 pounds of food for local food pantries. As we grow, we want to ensure that even MORE people have access to the best soil for the best food!
What is the purpose of this loan?
In order to grow our business, we need upfront operational capital. This loan will be used to purchase operational equipment and marketing services so that we can increase our impact and keep the Food Loop community going. Here is the breakdown of what we’ll use this money for over the next few months: -$6,850 for purchasing equipment (composting buckets, fleece for our piles, money towards a windrow turner, bagger, and sifter.) -$1,150 for marketing (website design, advertising) -$2,000 for 6 community engagement & education events Our goal for the end of 2017 is to have 50 new customers signed up for our compost service, establish 2 additional hunger gardens in our city, and to help break ground on a city farm for the hungry that puts urban agriculture at the heart of Little Rock. We hope to soon be able to purchase a bigger soil sifter and bagger and start selling our product in local and (fingers crossed!) national retail stores. Year two is only the beginning of this journey. These loans go above and beyond impacting our life. By supporting the Urban Food Loop’s efforts through your loan, you are helping end food waste, create a premium organic fertilizer for local growers, providing nutritious fruits and vegetables to hungry families, and creating a community of Food Looping!
Years in operation: 1 year – 3 years