Woman in commercial kitchen holding a tray of vegetables in front of a cold storage refrigerator

Capital Impact Partners, with Transformational Funding from The Morningstar Foundation, Awards $430,000 to Support Small Food Businesses and Nonprofit Organizations’ Cold Storage Needs in the Washington, D.C. Region

Twelve grantees were awarded funds to support a variety of cold storage-related needs, from refrigerated vans to refrigerators in corner stores.

July 19, 2023 (Washington, D.C.) – Capital Impact Partners is pleased to announce the grantees for the inaugural round of Keeping it Cool, a new grant initiative conceived and supported by The Morningstar Foundation. Keeping it Cool is designed to close the cold storage gap in the region, furthering access to healthy, nutritious foods across Washington, D.C. and the surrounding jurisdictions including Arlington, VA; Alexandria, VA, Fairfax County, VA; Montgomery County, MD; and Prince George’s County, MD.  With so many small food businesses and nonprofit organizations working with and distributing perishable foods, cold storage is a critical component of offering, serving and distributing healthy food in the region.

Capital Impact Partners received 312 total applications (234 businesses and 78 nonprofit organizations), totalling about $12.6 million in requests. In addition to The Morningstar Foundation, the Bainum Family Foundation also supported the Keeping it Cool grant program. Frequently identified needs included increased or updated refrigeration/freezer space, energy efficient upgrades, infrastructure to support cold storage, and increased/updated refrigeration display cases.  Awarded grants ranged between $10,000-$50,000 to address these gaps and further improve the region’s food system.  

Susie and Michael Gelman, Directors of The Morningstar Foundation, explain that “As we learned about the significant and systemic challenges related to food access through the region, we saw an opportunity to invite on-the-ground leaders to propose interventions that will increase access to healthy food for populations that need it most.  We knew it was important to support initiatives that both yield results within the next several months and also promote ongoing economic development.  We are so pleased to support these innovative organizations and food entrepreneurs.” 

“Lack of cold storage is a barrier to success for small businesses and nonprofit organizations in and around the District. These grants will enable expanded access to healthy food, reduce food waste, and increase operational efficiency which will ultimately enable growth and create additional jobs, especially in disinvested communities.  The high regional demand for this grant highlights the urgent need for funding for cold storage. We are excited to see the catalytic impact of these funds over the next year,” said Alison Powers, Director of Economic Opportunities at Capital Impact Partners. 

Keeping it Cool Grantees Reflect on their Awards

Three Part Harmony Farm LLC

“The Keeping it Cool grant is an essential investment for the growth of our business as we increase our crops and add new agricultural products such as pasture-raised eggs and meat birds.  The property is part of our extended farm family’s commitment to training a new generation of Black farmers, incubating new Black-owned agricultural businesses, and building the infrastructure that we need to adequately meet the demand of the nonprofit food hubs that deliver nutritious produce and pasture-raised eggs to people in Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, MD (as well as all urban, suburban and rural areas in between that exist in a system of food apartheid.)”

-Gail Taylor, Owner & Operator

AfriThrive Inc.

“The Keeping It Cool grant has presented our organization with a transformative opportunity, tackling a critical logistical challenge we’ve been grappling with since we began operations. With this grant funding, our food operations will undergo a remarkable pivot, enabling us to procure a refrigerated truck and make an even greater impact in our African immigrant community.

“The Keeping It Cool Grant empowers us to continue our mission of combating food insecurity and promoting healthy eating in our community. By investing in this essential equipment, we are strengthening our infrastructure and ensuring that vulnerable individuals and families have access to fresh, culturally appropriate nutritious foods.”

-Truphena Choti, President

Menkem LLC dba E Market

“In 2022, our refrigerator unit stopped working. It was expensive to repair, but even more expensive to replace. With not much funds and lots of perishable goods, we had to repair it. Thanks to Capital Impact Partners through the Keeping It Cool Grant we will be able to replace our refrigerator unit. With the new refrigerator unit, we will be able to increase capacity for products and ‘keep it cool.’”

-Eyob Zegeye, Owner

Overview of Keeping It Cool Grant Awardees:

Small Businesses

A Lady Writers Pen LLC (Just AJs Foods): Washington, D.C., Food Processor/ Distributor, $30,000 grant

A Lady Writers Pen LLC manufactures and distributes Veenies, a plant-based meat alternative. One of the primary business challenges is the limited freezer space for storage and distribution, which constrains its ability to meet the growing demand for the products. Grant funding will be used for purchasing a frozen storage container, which will allow the business to grow.  

B.lincatering LLC (B.Lin Catering): Washington, D.C., Caterer/ Kitchen Incubator, $35,000 grant

B.lincatering provides catering services and has a kitchen membership program which rents commercial kitchen space to small food businesses to support their growth. Through partnerships with D.C. nonprofits, B.Lin provides vegetarian-based food to children and seniors in Wards 5, 7, and 8. It also has a strong focus on sustainability and waste reduction. The grant funding will be used to refurbish current refrigeration and purchase a new walk-in refrigerator to allow more food business members to access the facility.   

Crave Inc. (Mess Hall): Washington, D.C., Kitchen Incubator, $50,000 grant 

Crave Inc. is a kitchen Incubator that is home to approximately 50 small food businesses and provides access to commercial kitchen equipment and refrigeration. Over 90% of the food businesses identify as BIPOC-, women-, or immigrant-owned businesses. Currently, refrigeration and freezer space limits the number of food entrepreneurs working at Mess Hall. The grant will be used to purchase additional refrigerators and freezers, which will support at least four more food entrepreneurs. 

Flavors, LLC: Prince George’s County, Kitchen Incubator, $35,000 grant

Flavors, LLC is the only licensed commercial kitchen incubator in Prince George’s County and supports the growth of underserved culinary founders with a focus on the development of BIPOC entrepreneurs. Currently, the 30 food and beverage members utilize the facility 24-hours/day, and refrigeration and freezer space limits operational efficiencies and the number of entrepreneurs served. The grant will be used to purchase additional refrigeration and freezer space. 

Menkem LLC: Washington, D.C., Corner Store, $35,000 grant

Menkem LLC is a corner store in Ward 7 in the District, which has only two grocery stores to serve a population of 74,500 people. Menkem partners with D.C. Central Kitchen to buy and sell fresh produce. The current refrigerator is older and needs to be replaced so there is a consistent supply of refrigerated items customers need such as produce, milk, and other items. The grant funding will be used to purchase a new refrigerator, which will increase the amount of healthy food that can be offered.  

Sligo Creek Farms LLC (The Farm At Our House): Montgomery County, Grower/ Producer, $35,000 grant

Sligo Creek Farms LLC is a certified organic mixed vegetable farm that sells its produce at farmers markets, to area restaurants, through a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, and contract grows for nonprofit organizations focusing on the food insecure. It also employs at-risk young men in rehabilitation from Our House, a local job training program. The grant will be used to purchase and install a walk-in refrigeration space, which will allow the operation to grow. 

Three Part Harmony Farm LLC: Washington, D.C., Grower/ Producer, $50,000 grant

Three Part Harmony Farm is a five-acre diversified vegetable operation with urban farms in D.C. and Brandywine, MD. It is working in partnership with other Black, women-led, food organizations to create a Black agricultural hub to support the regional food system from farm to consumer. The purchase of on-site cold storage will be used by the partner organizations to store and distribute locally grown foods. The grant funding will be used to purchase and install walk-in cold storage and chest freezers that will be shared among the collaborators. 

Nonprofit Awardees

AfriThrive Inc.: Montgomery County, Food Pantry/ Delivery/ Emergency Feeding Services, $40,000 grant

AfriThrive is a minority-led organization dedicated to creating economic opportunities for underserved African immigrant communities in the greater Washington region. AfriThrive sources and distributes culturally appropriate fruits and vegetables to 400-500 vulnerable families per week, and runs a community gardening initiative for families growing varieties of African indigenous vegetables, which are distributed through a mobile food pantry. The grant funding will be used to purchase a refrigerated truck  to increase the collection and distribution of more food to vulnerable families. 

Covenant House: Washington, D.C., Youth Residential Services/ Workforce Training/ Food Pantry/ Congregant Feeding Center, $15,000 grant

Covenant House provides residential and wrap-around services in D.C. Wards 7 and 8 and Prince George’s County for youth ages 18-24 experiencing homelessness, disconnection, and exploitation. It also provides workforce training and placement services and runs a food pantry in SE D.C. for youth and food-insecure community members. The grant funds will be used to purchase a refrigerator and freezer, which will allow the distribution of more refrigerated and frozen meats, produce, dairy, and fruits to the clientele.

Engaged Community Offshoots: Prince George’s County, Grower/ Producer/ Food Processor/ Beginner Farmer Training, $30,000 grant

Engaged Community Offshoots is a nonprofit urban teaching and learning farm practicing sustainable growing methods with a focus on those who identify as historically underserved in Prince George’s County and D.C. Engaged Community Offshoots is opening its third urban farm where ten new farm businesses will grow crops for distribution through a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program or through farm stand sales. Grant funds will be used to convert a shipping container to a walk-in refrigerator which will allow the new farmers to increase production. 

Gethsemane United Methodist Church (The Capital Market): Prince George’s County, Food Aggregator/ Farmers’ Market/ Food Delivery, $40,000 grant

Gethsemane United Methodist Church is a partner in The Capital Market, a community-led farmers’ market providing healthy food options, supporting local businesses and farms owned by people of color, and educating about culturally appropriate food systems. It primarily serves BIPOC residents experiencing food insecurity and local BIPOC farmers. The grant funding will be used to purchase a refrigerated delivery vehicle to expand the food delivery program while maintaining produce quality while in transit from the farm to market.

La Cocina VA (Kitchen of Purpose): Arlington, VA, Foodservice Workforce Training/ Kitchen Incubator/ Nonprofit Food Recovery, Preparation, and Delivery, $40,000 grant

La Cocina, VA creates careers by offering bilingual, food-related vocational, technical, and small business education to immigrants, people of color, and especially to women. It also addresses food insecurity in the D.C. area through meal preparation and delivery to low-income members of the community. The grant funding will be used toward the purchase of a refrigerated delivery vehicle which will allow La Cocina to grow its food assistance program. 

About Capital Impact Partners:

Capital Impact Partners is transforming how capital and investments flow into communities to provide people access to the capital and opportunities they deserve. We work to champion key issues of equity and social and economic justice by deploying mission-driven financing, capacity-building programs, and impact investing opportunities.

Capital Impact is part of the Momentus Capital branded family of organizations, including CDC Small Business Finance and Ventures Lending Technologies. Collectively, we offer a continuum of financial, knowledge, and social capital to help local leaders build inclusive and equitable communities and create generational wealth. This includes a comprehensive package of loan products, impact investment opportunities, training and business advising programs, and technology services that advance locally-led solutions.

A nonprofit Community Development Financial Institution, Capital Impact has disbursed more than $3 billion since 1982 to create access to critical social services, grow entrepreneurs, and create quality jobs. Capital Impact’s leadership in delivering financial and social impact has resulted in the organization being rated by S&P Global and Fitch, and recognized by Aeris for its performance. 

Headquartered in Arlington, VA, Capital Impact Partners operates nationally, with local teams in Austin, TX, Dallas, TX, Detroit, MI, New York, NY, and Oakland, CA.

Learn more at www.capitalimpact.org or momentuscap.org