Dear Friends and Family,
As many of you may know, I’ve been living in Baltimore for the last two years, building a non-profit, social enterprise called City Seeds. At City Seeds, our social mission is to create jobs for those who have barriers to employment; barriers that include criminal records, disabilities and living in disadvantaged zip codes. Many of the individuals we hire have had little to no culinary training or have experienced hardships in life that have kept them from being able to obtain or maintain employment – but who are driven to get on a path toward economic independence, and ultimately, personal fulfillment.
When City Seeds officially opened in January of 2016, it was just me and two part-time consultants. Today, it’s a team of almost thirty full time employees, 65% of whom have a barrier to employment. We have grown our team to deliver an increasing scope of services. City Seeds operates four cafes in major corporations, sells catering and event services, delivers wholesale food products to universities and hospitals and runs a nationally scaling food entrepreneurship program. As of Fall 2017, we will be relocating into a brand new 8,000 sq ft commercial kitchen in East Baltimore.
Our growth is not without challenges, mainly due to a bottom line of financial return and meaningful social impact. Having worked on social enterprises for the last decade, I’m no stranger to the challenges of achieving a financial return while putting your employees and the communities you serve first. The kitchen will be in the heart of East Baltimore, a disadvantaged but mostly residential neighborhood, home to Johns Hopkins medical campus and the renewal alongside the growth of one of the nation’s most respected hospitals. For many of its residents, segregation, poor education and generational poverty is a bleak reality that determines both their present and future.
If City Seeds can be successful, we will be able to help lead the efforts to transform this neighborhood, by becoming an economic anchor in the community, and as always, creating pathways to employment for community members. I am a firm believer that employment can and will be a way to break the cycle of crime and poverty that exists in this, and many other neighborhoods in Baltimore. Within our new commercial and teaching kitchen space, we will also be able to expand our School of Food education program to further grow small businesses within the community, as well as offer culinary medicine workshops to teach community members how to use food as a tool to prevent illnesses such as diabetes and obesity.
We are three months from opening our kitchen doors. With the support of national and local government funding, foundations and a team of hardworking individuals, we are almost there. I am therefore asking for your support to help us raise $20,000 in our mission to provide positive opportunities that reach all, despite their barriers.
No support is too small. We have dedicated space in the teaching kitchen to recognize our donors in a way that best aligns with your family or corporate brand. This will help to remind our team and those who partake in our culinary classes that it does take a village to make a difference.