Boar_Farm_EllyTruesdell[13]By: Elly Truesdell, Local Forager, Whole Foods Market Northeast

Whole Foods Market was thrilled to be a part of FoodBytes!’s first East Coast event in Brooklyn in March. As the Northeast Region’s Local Forager, my days are spent looking for the most innovative and special new producers and companies who are investing in the future of our food system. To say the least, FoodBytes! was right in my sweet spot.

One of, if not the most difficult factors about being a startup is funding. One thing that we’re really proud of at Whole Foods Market is the investment of time and money that we put into companies that we believe in. We have what’s called our Local Producer Loan Program, which provides low interest loans to local farms and producers. We’re on the cusp of a new milestone with the program, reaching approximately $20 million dollars in loans granted to nearly 250 recipients.  That said, the direct access that companies get to investors through FoodBytes! is incredible.

I loved the “pitch fest” format, featuring innovative food and agriculture companies all united by a concern to better our planet and our health.  Of the 10 companies that pitched at the event, I was particularly impressed by both The Chaat Co. (a current Whole Foods Market vendor) and Masienda (whose inspiring presentation led to an immediate conversation; we’re already  in the works on a potential partnership and thrilled to be working with a company so committed to sourcing).

Jorge Gaviria started Masienda to bring landrace corn from Mexico to the United States. He currently sells to about 100 chefs at high-end restaurants who are reviving the tradition of corn in true Mexican cuisine. I was shocked to learn that 98.5% of the corn grown in the U.S. is used in non-food applications (like ethanol, animal feed…shoe polish?!). Since when did corn as a human food become an afterthought? Essentially, Gaviria is giving farmers in Mexico a reason to grow corn again. We aim to bring Masienda’s authentic, all-corn tortillas to our shoppers soon.

Meanwhile, The Chaat Co., offers a savory yogurt inspired by the diverse flavors and ingredients of Indian street snacks, or “chaat.”  The company has designed a healthy, savory yogurt with global flavors that are still approachable. The Chaat Co. yogurts are available at Whole Foods Market locations throughout New York City and are worth a taste!

All in all, I look forward to keeping my eye on who FoodBytes! chooses to have present at these summits. There are literally hundreds of applications for each one, so the folks presenting here should know they’re in good company.

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