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Natural and Organic Food Entrepreneurship Event

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I had the privilege of presenting Project Feast at the Natural and Organic Food Entrepreneurship Event at the Impact Hub:
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It was really humbling to present in front of food entrepreneurs that I have admired over the years – from the left we have Arjan Stephens of Nature’s Path, Edmond Sanctis of Sahale Snacks, and Joe Whinney of Theo Chocolate!
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We also heard from other up and coming food startups, one of my favorite is Kristi Brown-Wokoma of Brown Girl Cooks (lady in middle). Her black eye pea hummus is amazing! She told us she strived to change the world one bite at a time!
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And what is a food event without food samples?
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Joe Dobrow, author of Natural Prophets and our host:
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After the presentation Veena and I received a lot of positive feedback and excitement about Project Feast. We also got ideas and suggestions from folks in the food industry. What a great event!
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Shoutout to Emily Allen for being a fantastic event organizer and Julie Zagars for these awesome photos!

Post by Nancy Xu, Project Feast board member.

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Highlights from Project Feast’s first year

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Project Feast just completed its first year as an organization! As we head into 2014, I wanted to share some highlights from last year with you.

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Awards at SVP Fast Pitch

As many of you know, the idea for Project Feast came about in the summer of 2012 just in time for the Fast Pitch competition application deadline.  Fast Pitch is a competition sponsored by Social Venture Partners for nonprofit and for-profit organizations that are created around positive social change. I was encouraged to apply by Kevin Owyang, who was in my Office Nomads cooking club and who was volunteering for Fast Pitch. With just 2 days to go on the deadline, inspiration struck and I finally decided to apply using the inkling of an idea I had around empowering immigrant women through cooking, something they already knew how to do. As a name, the word “Feast” felt good as it invokes pictures of people having a great time around food (and adding “Project” meant that the URL was available). While Project Feast didn’t make it past the Fast Pitch Quarterfinals, there was lots of constructive feedback and encouragement to implement. Going through this process also made me realize that this was exactly what I was missing in my previous entrepreneurial experience – the social impact.

So in summer 2013, we applied again for the same competition. With an initial investment of less than $5000, we created an organization with lots of traction and real results to show. We helped more than 70 people get their food handler permits. 20 people went through our 6 week training program and many of them got hands on experience on our catering program. More than a 100 people in the greater Seattle community attended one of our cooking classes and more than 2000 guests partook of the food prepared by our catering program. We earned almost $30,000 in revenue helping us pay for costs while working towards our mission.

We made it all the way to the Fast Pitch finals and on Nov 13th, 2013, I pitched Project Feast to an audience of 600 people consisting of entrepreneurs, investors, nonprofit leaders, community members, and philanthropists. What a wonderful experience to be on stage and tell everyone about what we can do with refugees & food!

We are thrilled to report that Project Feast won the Nonprofit track and also received the award from the Women’s Funding Alliance. In addition, we received an audience award as well the Grow 50 award for free consulting services. It was a big night for us! This award money will help take us to the next level by helping us hire and pay for staff to grow the organization.

We were able to achieve these results through partnerships and collaboration. The Lutheran Community Services Northwest and YWCA at Greenbridge provided us space to do our classroom training as well as helping with outreach and translation. Crooked Trails became our fiscal sponsor enabling us to apply for grants and receive donations.

The Tukwila Community Center invited us to move into their amazing commercial kitchen space where our training, catering and cooking classes will now be based.

Finally, we received great press from The Seattle Times, the Capital Hill blog and Al Jazeera America.

We have lots of plans and goals for 2014. We are actively looking for a Kitchen Manager / Instructor to help us grow our catering program. We have expanded our training program and plan to add an apprenticeship program. There is lots of work to do and we look forward to 2014 with excitement.

Veena Prasad
Executive Director
The Project Feast booth with Alanna McDonald and Trinh Duong

The Project Feast booth with Alanna McDonald and Trinh Duong

Veena Prasad on the big stage

Veena Prasad on the big stage

 

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A Visit to Create Common Good in Boise, ID

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ccgLogoFinal.BGIn early November 2013, I had the pleasure of visiting Create Common Good (CCG), a nonprofit social enterprise in Boise, ID, that has the following mission:

Create Common Good provides training and employment to refugees and others in need. Our experiential programs transform lives and enrich communities. We build upon the generosity and creativity of our volunteers and partners, because we all have something to give.

Over a period of 2 days of sitting in on their classroom training, observing their executive chef imparting knife skills in their brand new commercial kitchen, and meeting with their leadership, I was amazed by how much Tara Russell, CEO and Executive Director and her team have accomplished in the last 5 years. Their training model is highly successful and they have a job placement rate of 99%. They serve a diverse group of refugees from many countries including the Congo, Ethiopia, and Iraq, as well as other people in need.

Their entire staff shows compassion and works hard to ensure that all participants are given the opportunity to start life over again.

In addition to hosting us and answering a million questions, CCG gave us access to their training material. Their Training specialist Michelle Kwok, has carefully assembled a flexible lesson plan that breaks the training down into bite size concepts that include a vocabulary section, practice session, discussion as well as a little HW. Executive Chef Brent Southcombe’s hands-on lessons dovetail with Michelle’s classroom topics. They are both very encouraging, focus on what trainees are doing right and gently correct them when they are wrong.

We are in the process of updating our Project Feast curriculum and plan to incorporate many of our learnings from this trip to Boise. It was great to get our questions answered from Tara, Brent and Michelle and get their advice moving forward. I know our next training that starts on February 10th will be a great one.

And someday, we hope we can help someone else starting a new program in another part of the country or the world.

-Veena

CCG training

Stir-fry lesson

CCG culinary training

Knife skills and mise en place lesson. Everyone did a fabulous job.

Processing onions for sale

Processing onions for sale

CCG's lovely farm

CCG’s lovely farm

Preparing vegetables for a soup

Preparing vegetables for a soup

CCG participants had the broadest smiles and very positive attitudes!

CCG participants had the broadest smiles and very positive attitudes!