Maximizing on-farm food loss can be a business opportunity for kitchens. Portland’s Fork Food Lab, a shared kitchen and tasting room for food producers, is looking for food entrepreneurs who will incorporate surplus crops in their product development. The Lab is now offering nine scholarships, over three years, to businesses which will produce food products with a certain percentage of surplus crops.
The scholarship program is made possible by the Scaling for Growth in the Portland Foodshed Program, a $500,000 USDA Local Food Promotion Grant awarded to seven different businesses and facilitated by the Greater Portland Council of Governments. The program is a three-year collaborative food systems infrastructure project which will place 2.5 million pounds of locally grown food crops into wholesale, retail, light-processing and value added markets.
The sponsorship awardees will receive a five-month basic membership to Fork Food lab which includes use of the Lab’s commercial kitchen and storage space. The three food producers will also be part of the Lab’s mentorship and networking program.
“Our membership offers more than just the kitchen space. Fork Food Lab provides vital guidance for startup food companies including mentorship, workshops and networking opportunities,” said Jenn Stein, General Manager at Fork Food Lab. “These scholarships could be the catalyst for these businesses to get off the ground. I look forward to being a resource to all these entrepreneurs and assisting in their success. Using food surplus is such an important piece of the food cycle.”
Spoiler Alert will also play a role in sourcing the food for the producers at Fork Food Lab. The company’s technology platform connects farms, food manufacturers, and wholesale distributors with new markets for their surplus or imperfect products.
“Whole Crops we will work with Spoiler Alert to make sure we get attractive surplus food offerings onto the platform for entrepreneurs at Fork Food Lab to source from. When presented with a choice of sourcing from out of state, or accessing good surplus products through a mission-driven platform, we want to make Maine crops the easy choice,” said Hannah Semler of Whole Crops
Startup companies applying for the scholarship will need to provide a business model that includes sourcing ingredients from local farm surplus. More on the scholarship requirements can be found at www.forkfoodlab.com/lfpp
The Scaling for Growth Foodshed Project will integrate feedback loops that build more connectivity for the local food supply chain. The partners include: