Using Technology to Build Food Communities

Using Technology to Build Food Communities

But one of my favorite things about local food communities is the community. I’ve learned that it functions on trust and personal relationships, two things that are key in getting nutritious and healthy food to consumers like me. I think that this will always be the case, and that it should. That being said, technology can cultivate new relationships to grow local food ecosystems. I made it a point to design Freshspire in a manner that does NOT replace personal relationships, but enhances them. I believe in empowering our users to create relationships that they wouldn’t have otherwise created. Local food communities can only be made stronger by the people who are in it, and we can definitely use technology to help form them. Here’s to making local food more accessible, and to making my meal prep easier :p "


Why Local Food?

By Shraddha Rathod, CEO of Freshspire


Other than the fact that I love to eat, I didn’t grow up in the food space. Like most of us, I have no immediate farming background, or in any other part of the food value chain. But I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few years meeting people, listening, interviewing experts, visiting farms, attending events, and reading about our food systems. I’ve learned about what’s working and what’s not. I’ve made some great friends, who work hard every day to make sure our communities get nutritious food.

At Freshspire, we focus on local food - making it easier for retailers, chefs, and distributors to connect with farmers around them, and vice versa. So in this piece, I wanted to share a little bit about why we do what we do. It’s important to stay connected and near where our food is produced - after all, it is a necessity for life.

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So here are 5 of what I think are the most impactful reasons to eat local:

  1. Supporting local economies - This is probably the most apparent positive impact of local food. Dollars spent on farm fresh food often stays inside local communities. Farmers are then able to use that money to expand their farming infrastructure, and can often re-invest that money locally (inputs, equipment, workers, etc.). We also can form stronger personal relationships and community by interacting with where our food comes from.

  2. Helping the environment - Local food systems have multiple environmental benefits. By supporting farmers near you, you give them the ability to maintain their farmland and fertile grounds. It ultimately increases the greenery in our communities.

  3. Minimizing food waste - This hasn’t been well documented, but by reducing the number of miles food travels, we reduce spoilage & imperfections that often occurs during long distance travels. If a shipment from across the country is rejected, then it is often thrown out, as the drivers don’t usually have the relationships to find alternate uses for the food.

  4. Flavor and nutrition - We can get better quality food! When your food doesn’t have to travel very far, it is often picked at the peak of ripeness which equals peak flavor. Studies have also shown that the longer food sits, the nutrient content diminishes.  By sourcing locally, food travels less (from a nearby county vs across the country), and has spent a shorter amount of time out of the ground.

  5. Marketing benefits - As a business, finding your food supply locally has financial benefits too! Consumers are becoming more interested in where our food is coming from, sustainability, and social issues. Stores and restaurants can often use their sourcing choices as a way to bring in more customers, and can usually charge a small premium. Paying attention to specialty crops nearby can also help chefs come up with creative dishes for customers! Keep it fresh!


At Freshspire, we aim to provide more data regarding our local food systems to better quantify what the positive impact is and how we can increase it. It’ll make a difference if we are more conscious about the food we eat. This could mean browsing the “local produce” section at your grocery store or purposefully choosing a farm to table restaurant for your next special occasion. Let’s work together to strengthen our local food communities.



Sources:

MSU Extension: https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/7_benefits_of_eating_local_foods

NCSU Extension: https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/local-food-systems-clarifying-current-research


Not "Mushroom" For Waste

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We love to get to know the farmers and suppliers interested in using Freshspire. We're so excited to work with Carolina Mushroom Farm, so we went down to learn more about it! The owner, Shahane Taylor, gave us an in depth tour, and explained to us his process of growing mushrooms. Shahane specializes in the cultivation of Oyster, Portabella, Baby Bella, Shiitake and Lion’s Mane mushrooms.

Not only is Shahane a "fungi" (see what I did there?), he is also a smart guy! On top of providing the community with fresh and local mushrooms, Shahane focuses on being a zero waste farm! He recycles all the plastic bags used to grow the mushrooms and is searching for non-plastic alternatives. The logs used to grow some Shiitake mushrooms are kept and used as needed for firewood. Any excess mushrooms are composted or fed to the cows on his farm. Shahane will also be using Freshspire to sell any excess supply he has in efforts to reduce food waste in the community!

Don’t forget to support your local fungi and stop by his farm stand at the North Carolina State Farmers Market! And if you’re interested in growing mushrooms we recommend purchasing one of the grow kits for Oysters and Shiitake mushrooms! As always, stay Freshspired fam!

Carolina Mushroom Farm Owner, Shahane Taylor, with Oyster Mushrooms

Carolina Mushroom Farm Owner, Shahane Taylor, with Oyster Mushrooms

Shiitake Logs at Carolina Mushroom Farm

Shiitake Logs at Carolina Mushroom Farm

Shiitake Mushrooms at Carolina Mushroom Farm

Shiitake Mushrooms at Carolina Mushroom Farm

Freshspire Visits the Food Shuttle

On Tuesday, part of the Freshspire team visited the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle for a Lunch & Learn, where we got to hear about various programs offered through the food shuttle to alleviate food insecurity and hunger in our community. IFFS offers free food through neighborhood mobile markets, senior grocery bag delivery service, backpack buddies programs for students, school pantries, and their mobile tastiness machine.

The IFFS states that “putting food on a plate is not enough to end hunger” so in addition to providing free food they also teach job culinary skills, how to shop/cook on a budget through their Cooking Matters Program, and how to grow fruits and vegetables. We were excited to learn that the IFFS takes the extra step to not only encourage members of the community to eat healthier but also teach ways in which participants can cook the produce they are given.

During the lunch and learn we received a tour of their warehouse and got to see where all of the food is prepared, sorted and organized. The IFFS reports that "40% of food that is grown, processed and transported will never be consumed". Similar to Freshspire's mission, the food shuttle is passionate about redirecting this food to fight hunger in the company. Food shuttle drivers and volunteers help recover excess food and donations from retailers, markets, wholesalers and farmers which is then distributed to partner pantries, soup kitchens and other human service agencies. We were delighted to share this common goal of reducing excess food waste with the IFFS and to hear about the programs being implemented in the community. 

If you would like to learn more about the IFFS we recommend attending a lunch and learn which is held on the second Tuesday of every month! Visit their event page on the IFFS website for more information on how to register.

https://www.foodshuttle.org/events/

Freshspire hits the road!

On Sunday June 19th, one of our cofounders - Mona Amin, headed to Orlando for the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) Student Entrepreneur Program (SEP).

WBENC SEP fosters growth for the next generation of women-owned businesses through tailored entrepreneur curriculum, a live pitch competition awarding $10,000 in seed capital, and mentoring from the most successful Women's Business Enterprises and America's largest Fortune 500 companies. Students will also participate in experiential learning through off-site visits to WBE and corporate campuses and accelerators. Since its inception in 2008, more than 150 students from 40 colleges and universities across the country have graduated from SEP. WBENC is proud to support women-owned businesses at all levels of success. Women Owned businesses are growing at one and a half times the U.S. national average and in turn contribute over $1.5 trillion dollars to the U.S. economy, employing nearly 7.9 million people, and in 2015 opened an average of 887 new businesses EVERY DAY!

Mona is one of 19 students selected for this competitive program, with an entrepreneur cohort representing 16 universities. She is excited to meet her mentors from Kroger & Ragozzino foods.

Happy St. Patty’s Day! #knowyourgreens

St. Patrick’s Day is right around the corner. To get in the spirit, we were wondering how much you really #knowyourgreens. Here are the top 5 greens that provide the most nutrients. Acquired from WebMD. 

  1. Kale: This nutrition powerhouse offers everything you want in a leafy green. It's an excellent source of vitamins A, C, and K, has a good amount of calcium for a vegetable, and also supplies folate and potassium.
  2. Collards: Used in Southern-style cooking, collard greens are similar in nutrition to kale. But they have a heartier and chewier texture and a stronger cabbage-like taste. A half cup has 25 calories.
  3. Turnip greens: Turnip leaves are another Southern favorite traditionally made with pork. More tender than other greens and needing less cooking, this sharp-flavored leaf is low in calories yet loaded with vitamins A,C, and K, as well as calcium.
  4. Swiss chard: Both Swiss chard and spinach contain oxalates. Chard contains 15 calories in one-half cup and is a good source of vitamins A and C.
  5. Spinach: Popeye's favorite vegetable has 20 calories per serving, plus it's packed with vitamins A and C, as well as folate. Spinach leaves can be cooked quickly in the water that remains on them after rinsing, or they can be eaten raw in salads. Bags of frozen chopped spinach are more convenient to use than block kinds, and this mild-flavored vegetable can be added to soups, pasta dishes, and casseroles.

 

#FreshWomen of the Week

In honor of International Women’s Day, we have decided to spotlight our favorite women that are disrupting the food industry. They serve as our daily inspiration, and we hope that you enjoy learning about the impact that these women have made in their communities.

1. Kristen Richmond & Kirsten Tobey, Co-Founders of Revolution Foods

These founding moms started Revolution Foods with a mission to transform the way America eats by providing access to healthy, affordable meals. They believe that proper nutrition is a cornerstone of providing our youth the nourishment they need to lead successful, healthy lives. What began in schools, serving freshly prepared meals to students, has since grown to retail and today they are proud to offer meal options for both families and students across the country. 150 million meals later, their amazing journey has only just begun.

2. Sabrina & Tara Mutukisna, Co-Founders of The Town Kitchen

Their vision is to create community through local food; a community where low-income Oakland youth can shine; a community where they will introduce under-served youth to talented chefs & start-up entrepreneurs so they have the skills and network to pursue their future. They are on a mission to shift the way people engage with food commerce, and ensure that local youth with significant barriers to employment and education have access to and voice in the development of this growing market.  

3. Hannah Dehradunwala, Co-Founder of Transfernation

Transfernation is a 501(c)3 non-profit which leverages technology to ensure that extra food from events goes to supporting communities in need. To date they have rescued over 10,000 pounds of food from events across NYC including corporate luncheons, galas, and conferences.

4. Regina Northouse, Executive Director of Food Recovery Network

Food Recovery Network is the largest student movement against hunger and has recovered and donated over one million pounds of food that otherwise would have gone to waste. That's over 800,000 meals that's gone to those in need.  

5. Shobhita Soor, Chief Innovation Officer of Aspire

Their mission is to provide economically challenged, malnourished populations with high protein and micronutrient-rich food solutions derived from the supply and development of insects and insect-based products. Our world is experiencing rapid urbanization, population growth and shrinkage of arable land, and loss of critical water resources. Aspire has developed a nutritious source of protein that is eco-friendly and resource efficient.

 

Food We Love

This week, we are bringing our favorite recipes to you! Follow us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook (@FreshSpire) to see them. Making new food is always enjoyable, but do you ever get frustrated when you don't know what do with all of the extra ingredients in your fridge? There are many websites that can help you solve this problem. We've compiled just a few:

1) Recipe Matcher - This website pulls from its large database of recipes. Narrow down the search results by choosing your favorite cuisine. 

2) Super Cook - Updated as you enter your ingredients to make searching even faster. The small suggestion boxes are an additional plus.

3) Recipe Puppy - This website is populated with results from all over the web! 

There are many resources that can help you make full use of the left over food in your fridge. Food waste leads to 20% of methane emissions from our landfills. Reduce, reuse, and eliminate food waste!