Earlier this year, the Nonprofit Finance Fund made a loan to L.A. Kitchen, a social enterprise using healthy food to create change in Los Angeles. The fund has been around for a long time—since 1980, actually—but lately its moment has really arrived, as impact investing gains steam. Meanwhile, the push to improve food choices and health is also a red-hot trend.
More and more, we're seeing these realms come together, with other threads woven in, too: like helping people get jobs or empowering women. (See for example: Why is the New York Women's Foundation Investing in Bread Making?)
L.A. Kitchen's mission is three-pronged: get disadvantaged folks food service jobs, improve inner-city nutrition, and reduce food waste. All good stuff, for sure. And this $2 million loan will enable the organization to outfit a 20,000-square-foot commercial kitchen, purchase equipment, and move from its pilot phase to a full-scale launch later this year.
The organization was founded in 2013, and its job training program is currently targeting youth aging out of foster care and adults who were recently incarcerated. Exactly the kinds of people most in need of an employment boost, and a little nutrition boot camp probably wouldn’t hurt, either. The food comes from local farms, wholesalers, and other food service businesses: “seconds” unfit for sale or commercial use that can be donated, and still have plenty of nutritive merit.
"L.A. Kitchen is both a start-up venture and a replication of a proven business model," said Jennifer Kawar, vice president and chief investment officer at NFF. "We're investing in a visionary leader and in an undaunted, experienced team committed to enhancing services for a growing population of vulnerable seniors and to creating opportunities for unemployed people in Los Angeles....This is a compelling example of what social enterprise can accomplish across multiple issue areas."