July 19, 2018

“Detroit hummus maker, Baobab Fare among recipients of $100,000 in Michigan Good Food Fund grants,” Crains Detroit

A city of Detroit employee’s hummus-making operation is among the 10 healthy food businesses that…



A city of Detroit employee’s hummus-making operation is among the 10 healthy food businesses that have earned equal shares of $100,000 in grants through the Michigan Good Food Fund.

The fund, launched in 2015, awards enterprises dollars and loans to scale operations in ways that increase access to fresh food and help underserved areas. It’s invested more than $11 million in 28 recipients so far.

Partners in the fund are the Fair Food Network, Capital Impact Partners, Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

This latest round of funding, called the Catalytic Investment Awards, went to East African restaurant Baobab Fare and three other Detroit-based businesses plus one from Flint, one from Ann Arbor and four from outstate. They’ll likely receive their $10,000 each by mid-August, said Mary Donnell, program manager of the Michigan Good Food Fund.

One of the Detroit recipients is Sweet Potato Delights, run by nutritionist and veteran Velonda Anderson and her husband Jerome Anderson. Velonda, 61, makes hummus at night after her day job as Women, Infants and Children program manager for the city of Detroit.

Anderson originally launched Sweet Potato Delights in 2013, selling muffins, cake and other baked goods. She started making her popular hummus commercially in 2016 in three flavors: regular, roasted beet and spicy black bean. She now sells at Honey Bee Market in southwest Detroit, Western Market in Ferndale and Market Square in Birmingham.

“Honey Bee moves four cases a month, 12 units a case,” she said. “Which is amazing for a smaller place like ourselves.”

Sales rose from $1,000 in 2016 to just more than $3,000 in 2017, and Anderson said she expects to at least double last year’s figure this year.

The $10,000 grant will support bigger food processors needed to accommodate larger orders and growth, and creation of an internship, she said.

Sweet Potato Delights needs to start making bigger batches: It signed on to sell its hummus in the urban-style Meijer Inc. store called Bridge Street Market when it opens in Grand Rapids in about a month — and likely more small-scale Meijer stores later down the line. (Detroit is slated to get a small-format Meijer as part of an East Jefferson development next year.)

Nadia Nijimbere (left) and Hamissi Mamba and will run Baobab Fare, a restaurant, juice bar and retail shop expected to open in Detroit’s New Center around November. The pair came to the U.S. as refugees from the East African nation of Burundi.

The previous Catalytic Investment Awards were announced in November 2016, giving $380,000 to five food retail enterprises. This time around, they widened the pot to include caterers, restaurants and others, as well as retailers. Another round is coming later this year that will award around $400,000, Donnell said. The fund will likely send out applications in September.

Other winners of the current round of $10,000 grants, according to a news release, are:

  • Baobab Fare: An East African restaurant, café and shop set to open in Detroit’s New Center area.
  • Fresh Corner Cafe: A caterer and fresh-food distributor based in Detroit that works with schools, community centers, seniors, hospitals and others.
  • Guerrila Food: A Detroit-based operation that uses city-grown produce and offers farm-to-table food in the Pink Flamingo, an Airstream trailer converted into a mobile restaurant; it also caters and hosts workshops.
  • MaMang: A Flint-based company that serves slow-cooked Vietnamese food at the city farmers market; it aims to expand to its own location in Flint.
  • Mighty Fine Poultry Processing LLC: An Ann Arbor meat processor that wants to bring more locally grown poultry from small-scale farmers to the market; it’s planning a commercial kitchen and shop.
  • The COGIC Community Center Forward Center for Healing and Cultural Advancement: This Battle Creek group is planning a food co-op, and promotes fresh fruits and vegetables through a community garden.
  • Malamiah Juice Bar: A business in Grand Rapids Downtown Market and local cafes and markets; it makes juice, acai bowls and nut butters, and some of its products can be bought under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
  • The Mason Jar Café: A breakfast and lunch restaurant in Benton Harbor that’s planning a second location and advertises its food as “farm-to-table.”
  • The Redheads: A plant-based food manufacturer in Traverse City that works with nearby farmers, making products including pesto and cherry chipotle hummus.

First published on Crain’s Detroit Business July 19, 2018.

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