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The founders of ChiFresh Kitchen never expected their worker-owned, commercial kitchen cooperative would launch early due to a pandemic-fueled demand for quality meals for people coping with food insecurity.
They also didn’t foresee that their whirlwind success would cause them to outgrow their space at The Hatchery Chicago, a West Side food incubator, within their first year of operations.
Now, with the help of a grant from the Trust’s new Pre-Development Fund, this fast-growing food enterprise owned and operated by five formerly incarcerated entrepreneurs of color has secured a new home: a 6,000-square-foot former grocery store in Greater Grand Crossing on the city’s South Side.
The goal of the Pre-Development Fund is to spur equitable, catalytic growth in disinvested neighborhoods by giving community-based developers of color the early-stage capital they need to compete with larger, well-resourced developers. It is the first Trust initiative with a sole focus on supporting the work that needs to be done before construction can actually begin.
“Our pre-development grant was an incredible bridge that helped us complete our construction plans and line up project financing,” says Camille Kerr, a ChiFresh Kitchen founder and advisor. The Trust’s $63,500 grant helped the group secure an additional $250,000 investment from the Libra Social Impact Fund as well as a $350,000 property loan.
In its new space, ChiFresh Kitchen has the capacity to provide 5,000 meals a day—a 10-fold increase from its output at The Hatchery. The co-op continues to partner with fellow Trust grant recipient Urban Growers Collective to offer locally sourced, sustainably grown food, and with Chicago Food Policy Action Council, its nonprofit sponsor for the pre-development grant, to provide meals to neighbors in need.
“We’re so excited to be in a space where our business can grow and we can do our part for the community. No one wants to be hungry, and if I can change even a small aspect of someone’s day through a meal, that does me good.” –Kimberly Britt, Worker-Owner, ChiFresh Kitchen