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‘Open Access NYC’ helps food entrepreneurs grow businesses

New York University and Food & Society at the Aspen Institute have launched a new online portal aimed at supporting New York City area BIPOC food entrepreneurs.

The new free website portal, Open Access NYC (https://aspen-open-access-new-york.herokuapp.com/), was created to help people who are looking to open a food-oriented business but may not know all the procedures they need to have in place to get the business up and running, or how to sustain that business and keep it licensed once it is operational.

In a July 9 webinar announcing the launch of the Open Access NYC portal, Corby Kummer, the executive director of Food & Society at the Aspen Institute, spoke about how his organizations’ efforts to promote healthy diets has had to delve into the fact that many communities don’t have access to healthy food.

“We’ve done a very long report gathering together all of the peer-reviewed research into ‘food is medicine’ interventions,” Kummer explained, “the only one of its kind. The National Institutes of Health used it as the basis for a call for Centers of Excellence and Food is Medicine.

“We’ve been terrifically excited to get to work on nutrition interventions. But always the way to make something survive is to allow people to thrive economically while helping others. And so, we wanted to be able to help people of color and BIPOC food entrepreneurs to get healthier food into underserved neighborhoods that need it and to make a profit doing it.”

But when organizations or individuals work to create programs or restaurants where they can provide healthy food, they are too often faced with bureaucratic or financial hurdles that can hinder or even stop their efforts.

That’s where the Open Access portals come in. Open Access NYC is now the fourth citywide program in the nation. It follows portals already operating in Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.
The portals are intended to help guide anyone looking to open a food-oriented business through all of the local and sometimes national certifications they might need. The site will also feature resources that can help a new business find restaurant suppliers, apply for grants, or give them information on financial institutions that might be able to help with loans.  

Caroline Karanja, CEO of Hack the Gap, the organization that helped design the portal, said Open Access NYC “is really a jump-off point for food entrepreneurs: folks from caterers to packaged food specialists. This website really pulls together the most essential starting point and resources for those that are looking to start and grow their food businesses.

“It’s like a digital collaboration of resources from the SBA to local nonprofit organizations to private software services whose products and offerings can help you build your food business,” she added. “The platform has videos, access to templates, checklists, and in some areas just good old-fashioned instructions on how to do things like think about your marketing, how to get the right kind of permit or license, and all the things here are really just the beginning of the platform.”

The Open Access NYC portal is designed to be a “one-stop shop” for food-based entrepreneurs of color. Plans are to keep the site updated with new information, since rules and regulations are constantly changing.  

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