The Next 25 Social Enterprise Stars: Food & Agriculture

Apr 23, 2015 8:05 AM ET

Reimagine Money Blog

As part of our campaign to add 25 social enterprise stars to our loan portfolio over the next year, we’re looking for new borrowers in all three of our focus areas: Food & Agriculture, Education & the Arts, and Ecological Stewardship. These are broad categories, but because it’s not always obvious whether an enterprise is a fit for us, we’re delving into what we look for in each area. Last month we covered Education & the Arts. Up this month: Food & Agriculture.

In this category, we fund social enterprises working in these areas:

  • Infrastructure supporting resilient regional food systems, especially food hubs, which provide some combination of aggregation, storage, processing, distribution and marketing of regionally produced food. RSF is the country’s most active lender for food hubs, and borrowers such as Common Market provide working models for newcomers.
  • Increasing access to wholesome and healthy food for people who need it most through food banks and other programs. Ceres Community Project, for example, is an innovative program that delivers organic, whole-food meals, usually for free, to people battling serious illnesses (and teaches its teen volunteers to cook in the process).
  • Reducing food waste by redistributing food to food-insecure populations or using value-added processing to create new consumer products. A star in this area is DC Central Kitchen, which uses surplus food to provide healthy meals to low-income and at-risk DC residents, as well as job training for people who face employment barriers. The company was recently featured in the Huffington Post.

In the packaged goods sector, we seek out companies whose products are both environmentally and socially responsible. Our newest borrower, Harmless Harvest, is a great illustration of what we’re looking for: the San Francisco–based social enterprise sells the first coconut water in the United States to earn the Fair for Life fair trade certification.

To achieve the certification, Harmless Harvest had to demonstrate fair trade practices at each level of its supply chain; form long-term, ongoing partnerships with workers who manufacture its 100 percent raw and organic coconut water drinks; establish a safe environment with fair wages and benefits for all employees and partners; and institute a fair trade premium that goes towards social initiatives in local communities in Thailand. RSF financing, in partnership with New Resource Bank, will fund working capital needs and inventory build-up during the peak coconut season.

If you know of enterprises in any of our focus areas that could expand their impact with greater access to capital, send them to Wanted: Social Enterprise Stars.

And please pass it on to your network! The more #SocentStars posts there are on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, the more social enterprises we can reach and assist. Many thanks to all those who’ve been tweeting and posting so far.

Here are a few post ideas:

  1. Are you a food or ag enterprise looking for #funding? @RSFSocFinance has loans for #socents.  #SocentStars
  2. How could your #socent grow with the right #funding? Apply for an @RSFSocFinance loan:  #SocentStars
  3. Help find RSF’s next 25 #SocentStars. Send your faves to @RSFSocFinance loan info page:  #socent