‘Shark Tank’ food contest fulfills hunger for locally produced food

Carrots grown at Growing Power's Milwaukee Farm
Carrots grown at Growing Power's Milwaukee Farm (Photo courtesy of the USDA)

By Jordan Gaines

Locally sourced food creates local jobs and creates smaller carbon footprint, which is better for the environment. So why is it that only 6 percent of food grown in Illinois consumed here?

In a “Shark Tank”-style competition, a team composed of three food-based concerns won the right last week to solve that problem with a winning $500,000 plan to bring produce to more than 250,000 Chicago families. Comprised of FarmLogix, Top Box Foods and This Old Farm, the trio beat out 24 teams with a creative plan to get locally sourced food on local tables in a contest sponsored by the Kinship Foundation and Chicago Community Trust.

Together, the companies will put products and proteins into food boxes and provide up to 700 pick-up locations where residents can access these items.

“Four years ago, I started this business at my kitchen table as a single mom,” said Linda Mallers, CEO of FarmLogix, an Evanston-based company that connects farms to over 1,000 schools in 17 states.

Their partner, Top Box Foods, also works to help communities access fresh food. They partner with schools and churches, offering boxes of fresh meat and produce for $8-$28. They currently have 22 pick-up locations in Cook County primarily in food deserts where grocery stores are not readily accessible.

“Nearly 25 million live more than one mile from a supermarket,” according to the United States Department of Agriculture. “The farmers’ markets, mobile grocers and other unconventional retail outlets stocked with local food can help address food access challenges in areas not being reached by the traditional system.”

Photo at top:Carrots grown at Growing Power’s Milwaukee Farm (Photo courtesy of the USDA)