Venture Founders: Providing a Solution to Food Insecurity in South Bend

Author: Valeria Gonzalez

Thomas CotterThomas Cotter

When ESTEEM student Thomas Cotter joined the Venture Founders Program (VFP), he did so with the vision of working on food insecurity, an issue that he has been passionate about for years. Through networking and VFP resources, Thomas was connected with Genevieve Crum, (ESTEEM '16), who shares a similar interest in the issue. The first couple of months were spent collecting data both nationally and locally to better understand the problem. Once the problem was better understood, they pondered how they could best collaborate and what a solution looks like for the South Bend community. Currently, Thomas and Genevieve are still trying to piece together a solution that analyzes the problem as a whole, instead of just parts of the problem, like many food security services currently.  

Genevieve CrumGenevieve Crum

Thomas and Genevieve are currently looking at the possibility of a food supply chain that incorporates farmers, suppliers, grocery stores, and culinary institutes, in order to prepare healthy food that can be transferred to needed areas. A South Bend pilot of this program would consist of dinner, in hopes that parents can pick up food on their way home from work that is quick and healthy. With this, Thomas and Genevieve are increasing access to healthy food, doing it in a way that is affordable, and even providing nutritional education along the way. Their goal is to end the negative effects that result from a poor diet and even contribute to the poverty cycle like diabetes, obesity, and poor performance due to malnutrition. Besides this, providing underserved communities with healthy food also relieves some of the weight that all Americans carry in paying for healthcare costs.

Current challenges faced are determining a price point that would be accessible for families, finding the right partners, determining the logistics to make a pilot program in South Bend, and learning how to make this is a scalable solution with the capacity to be successful in any city and community. Thomas and Genevieve also understand the cultural richness that food encompasses, and therefore will allow for the served communities to pick the types of meals prepared in order to empower individuals and continue to let meals be a cultural and communal glue.