Grasshoppers Distribution, created with money from Kentucky’s tobacco settlement, has been around for years, the regional distributor for Kentucky and Southern Indiana-grown produce.
Now, Kentucky officials along with Bridgeport, Ct. based non-profit Wholesome Wave – sort of a food advocacy/angel fund of funds – are investing a total of about $350,000 in a Grasshoppers expansion.
The idea is to expand the amount of local foods Grasshoppers supplies to school kids (instead of Papa John’s pizza, which is on the menu at more Jefferson County Public Schools than you’d believe.)
It takes a long and thoughtful reading of their news release to get to it – along with references from our college finance courses – but apparently the news is Wholesome Wave is matching up for-profit Grasshoppers with outside investors, with the state more than matching that investment.
Wholesome Wave works in 28 states, helping small-to-medium-sized farms expand fresh food offerings to consumers who need it most in low-income, inner city neighborhoods.
The investment would create a “food hub,” but that mechanism isn’t explained in a news release.
This is a big deal because JCPS is a big deal, with about 100,000 students at 150 schools. So far, according to the release, about 17,000 students have access to the Grasshoppers program.
This is definitely worth an IL follow-up post.
More as we know more.
From the news release:
The Kentucky Agricultural Development Board, the Kentucky Agricultural Finance Corporation and a private investor came forward to make a significant commitment, totaling $350,000, which substantially leveraged Wholesome Wave’s initial $50,000 investment. Unlike traditional loans, Grasshoppers will have a longer time to return the funding with lower than market interest. This innovative joint financing not only supports many small Kentucky farmers, including a number of former tobacco farmers, it also connects a growing Kentucky business with solid job growth and healthier school food.
Through an unusual and innovative financing initiative, Wholesome Wave, the Commonwealth of Kentucky and local investors have teamed up to bring local fresh food to tens of thousands of high-need public school students through a Louisville-based “food hub”. The move not only allows Grasshoppers Distribution to expand its service to schools, it continues the company’s support of local farmers and businesses, which together employ more than 75 people.
Grasshoppers Distribution is a mission driven for-profit company that sources and distributes a wide variety of locally grown foods from farmers in Kentucky and Southern Indiana. In addition to serving individual customers, the company is currently supplying local fruits and vegetables to nearly 17,000 public school students, 90% of whom qualify for free and reduced price lunch.
The venture with Grasshoppers marks Wholesome Wave’s first investment towards its goal to strengthen local and regional food distribution infrastructure. Working closely with Grasshoppers’ management, the Wholesome Wave business team analyzed the market and growth potential of the organization, then made a “vote of confidence” initial investment in early June. However, in order to reach the full investment required for growth, Wholesome Wave and Grasshoppers management reached out to the Commonwealth of Kentucky and local investors.
Gus Schumacher, Wholesome Wave’s Executive Vice President and former USDA Under Secretary of Agriculture for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services, says, “This innovative joint and somewhat intricate financing effort came together fairly quickly. Working with exceptional management at Grasshoppers, with a solid business plan and with great leadership by key Kentucky government and local investors, this collaborative work shows that the movement to provide every child with affordable access to healthy fresh food can be strongly supportive to the growth of local farms and local businesses.
About Wholesome Wave: Wholesome Wave is a nonprofit, 501(c)3 organization dedicated to supporting small- and mid-sized farmers and making fresh, healthy, locally grown fruits and vegetables available to all people, regardless of income. Wholesome Wave partners with farmers markets, community leaders, healthcare providers, like-minded nonprofits and government entities to implement programs that benefit consumers in under-served communities and the farmers who provide for them.
The Healthy Food Commerce team works with qualified investors seeking to build and connect infrastructure that serves regional farmers and expands local food markets. Wholesome Wave envisions a market in which all individuals and institutions can easily purchase significant volumes of produce, dairy, grains and meat from a thriving, diverse base of sustainable regional farms.
About Grasshoppers Distribution: Based in Louisville, Kentucky, Grasshoppers is deeply committed to the survival of our family farms, land stewardship, and the establishment of a thriving local food economy that serves our entire community and offers a national model for food systems development. Grasshoppers offers consumers a year-round, online grocery service that provides a one-stop-shopping experience for fresh farm foods from over 60 Kentucky and Southern Indiana family farms and family businesses, including vegetables, fruit, eggs, beef, chicken, pork, turkey, fish, milk, artisan cheeses, bread, pasta, soups, honey, salsas, jams, coffees and lots more. Grasshoppers works to increase affordable access to healthy, local foods by serving families in need primarily through schools and churches. Grasshoppers builds farmers’ capacity and helps manage their risk by providing a reliable market and providing technical assistance.