Lending to Build Stronger Food Systems Farmer-Owned Hub and Co-op: A Perfect Match Two Self-Help investments—a farmer-owned food hub and a neighborhood cooperative grocery—work symbiotically to create a sustainable food system: Eastern Carolina Organics (ECO), a wholesale distributor of local organic produce, has been instrumental in transitioning tobacco farmers to organic produce. ECO returns 80% of every retail dollar to family farms in the region. The Durham Co-op Market and its 2,000 members buy their produce from ECO. Plus the Co-op gets its meat from a sustainable niche meat aggregator that rents space and shares infrastructure with ECO. Learn more about our food system loans. When Self-Help member Silvana Rangel of Durham, NC launched her catering business Soul Cocina in 2015, she focused on wholesome, plant-based foods like her top-selling vegan tamales. She came to Self-Help for a small loan to expand into her first physical location, a food hub in Chapel Hill she’ll share with eight other food entrepreneurs. Working with Partners for More Equitable Food Systems With support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Self-Help aims to increase access to capital for food and farm entrepreneurs. We seek to fill in lending gaps for innovative borrowers most in need by partnering with a national web of lenders and organizations that provide capital and business development resources for underserved food entrepreneurs. Success means helping food entrepreneurs achieve economic security for their own families while also expanding the delivery of healthy food, with all its benefits, in their local communities. For more information, check out this Healthy Food System Capital Initiative Overview. Alleviating Childhood Hunger in North Carolina and Beyond Self-Help has committed to working with partnering organizations to end childhood hunger. This has included a variety of efforts, such as: Working with the NC Alliance for Health to understand how our members access fresh fruits and vegetables Providing much-needed fresh food storage space to a coalition fighting hunger in western NC Providing a free lunch site for kids during the summer Encouraging healthy eating habits among students in rural charter schools Coordinating a food pantry for members in Durham On the national level. Every five years Congress passes a Farm Bill, which shapes key national policies on food, agriculture and rural development. In 2017, Self-Help joined with long-time experts National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition to advocate for policies that affect communities we serve, especially members in rural areas. Read more about our history serving rural communities alongside USDA here. Publications of Interest Policies and practices to strengthen our food system – Thoughts from Self-Help’s David Beck, highlighted by the Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM news, March/April 2020). “Challenges and Issues in Accessing and Utilization of Capital by Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers,” Alcorn State University’s Socially Disadvantaged Farmer and Rancher Policy Research Center, funded by Self-Help (December 2019). Weekly News Update Sign up for our "Weekly News Update" email to stay up to date on relevant news, research and policy work. Looking for a previous email? Check out our archive below. To view older updates, click here for our archived updates.