Even before moving to Austin a couple of years ago, Curt Nelson fought hunger alongside the food bank in San Diego. His desire to help his new community in Austin led him to organize a tour of the Capital Area Food Bank with his neighbors. To this day, he continues to help feed hungry families, but now as a partner with Austin Foodshed Investors, an emerging impact investing network company.
Thanks to Austin Foodshed Investors’ (AFI) $10,000 donation to the Food Bank, 40,000 meals will make their way to hungry Central Texans’ tables.
“In a nation that’s as prosperous as the United States …there’s just no excuse for allowing our friends and neighbors to go hungry,” Curt said.
Recognizing that food is a fundamental need for people, AFI’s focus is to help up-and-running impact food companies in the Austin area use “business as a force for good”, help investors find and invest in local entrepreneurs and build a more robust food system.
“We think there’s an actual opportunity to use the business structure and for profit business as a way to actually do good things, and actually have a fulfilling life and actually be beneficial to people,” Curt said.
According to the "State of the Food System Report" by the City of Austin Office of Sustainability, less than one percent of the food that’s consumed in Travis County is locally produced. Though all aspects of the food system are considered by AFI, their highest priority are companies that want to increase the supply of healthy local food.
Though the company hasn’t publically launched, they’re already seeing some success. They have closed seven deals of 59 they were offered and currently have about a dozen more projects in the works.
One of their most notable deals is Cat Spring Yaupon Tea, a company that produces yaupon tea and provides employment opportunities to individuals with a criminal background. AFI identified the company as a fit for a USDA Value-Add Producer Grant, and with their guidance, the company received a $250,000 grant. To help the tea company grow, AFI loaned them $75,000.
“What we’re trying to do is look at where they’re at and figure out how best to help them, and if the money comes from somebody else, and if the money is lower cost than what you would get from our investors… we’ll call that a win,” Curt said. “We’re not in it to make money because we’re trying to be that business we want other people to be which is to do good and eventually figure out a way to pay the bills.”
As the only company focused on local for socially good private food companies, AFI would eventually like to have a national network of local impact investing with people helping each other in their local areas Curt said. For now, AFI is slowly getting off the ground here in Austin supporting local for-profit food impact companies and making a mark in the fight against hunger through donations to the Food Bank.