Detroit-based nonprofit and investor Fair Food Network is on a mission to build community health and wealth through food.
Since its founding in 2009, Fair Food Network has grown from a local nonprofit offering Double Up Food Bucks in five Detroit farmers markets to the national technical assistance lead for all nutrition incentive and produce prescription projects in the US. Along the way, its support of the growing field of nutrition incentives and its approach and dedication to expanding opportunities for retailers and farmers have taken root in Michigan and spread from California to Maine. Complementing its work in nutrition incentives, Fair Food Network’s success in developing place-based impact investing collectives has broadened healthy food access while strengthening local economies and demonstrating what’s possible. The nonprofit and investor’s role as the administrative lead for the Michigan Good Food Fund gives it the opportunity to model, share, and exchange knowledge to improve how food is used as a tool for equity. But even as its work is national in scope, Fair Food Network’s innovation and impact are firmly planted in a community-first mindset here in Michigan.
Fair Food Network partners with growers, processors, distributors, retailers, and other local food entrepreneurs who provide their communities with vital nourishment, economic opportunity, and environmental stewardship. By supporting nutrition incentive and impact investing initiatives that direct dollars and resources to food businesses serving their communities, Fair Food Network fosters connections that overcome systemic barriers, support local vision and resilience, and help to redress longstanding racial and gender inequities.
Fair Food Network’s impact investing arm, Fair Food Fund, recognizes that when the people who provide our food thrive, we all thrive. Fair Food Fund keeps farmers and food businesses at the center of its work, weaving experience in food systems and food business with catalytic capital and wraparound, industry-specific technical assistance. Alongside its many community partners, Fair Food Fund’s work strengthens collective capacity and impact and co-creates solutions that spark local economic development, generate jobs and support for area vendors, and keep more dollars circulating in and benefiting the local economy. The result is the ultimate return on investment — the vitality and sustainability of food systems, food businesses, and surrounding communities.
These results are apparent in the thriving businesses Fair Food Fund supports, such as Egg Roll Diva, a Black woman-owned business bringing more jobs and good food to Detroit neighborhoods. Owner Belinda Beard participated in Michigan Good Food Fund’s Food Finance Essentials, a multi-week, intensive training course led by Fair Food Network and designed to equip food entrepreneurs with accounting tools and financial know-how. Following Belinda’s successful completion of the course, Fair Food Fund offered a line of credit to alleviate her business’ high-interest debt, helping Belinda to focus on immediate needs and growth opportunities. Fair Food Fund provided working capital to help Egg Roll Diva secure 15 vendor spots at various festivals throughout the year, as well as a micro-loan that helped Belinda purchase a second food truck. “I have gained so much knowledge in the logistics of running a better business,” shared Belinda. “I am truly honored to be part of this network and will always be thankful for such a great program.”
With its goal to advance systemic change that ensures the communities it engages with design, control, and benefit from their own local food economies, the positive impact of Fair Food Fund’s investments in overlooked and often excluded entrepreneurs ripples out further — diversifying representation in business ownership, creating wealth in communities of color, and helping community members lead the regeneration of their neighborhoods and help to build an economy that works for all.
To learn more, visit FairFoodNetwork.org.