ULI Chicago members gathered to hear from four panelists who are working to advance the region’s access to a local, sustainable food supply. Moderated by Joanna Trotter, The Chicago Community Trust, the speakers Michael Davidson, The Chicago Community Trust, Anupy Singla, Indian as Apple Pie, Natalie Shmulik, The Hatchery, and Rich Wallach, IFF engaged ULI members in a discussion of the different challenges and opportunities present in our region’s food industry.
Consumers’ demand for locally sourced food continues to increase, and the upper Midwest offers some of the world’s best agricultural conditions; yet only six percent of produce consumed by Illinoisans is grown in-state. The Chicago Community Trust, through its Food:Land:Opportunity initiative is seeking to change that by fostering the creation of a resilient local food economy. As per Michael Davidson, more than $2.8 million in grant funds have been awarded through F:L:O to support innovative programs that promote the initiative’s strategic goals of increasing access to land for sustainable farming, improving business practices on the supply side, and increasing access to capital for local food businesses.
Anupy Singla shared the story of her journey as a food entrepreneur highlighting the challenges of starting a food business. After leaving her career as a commodities reporter, Anupy was inspired to write a cookbook of Indian recipes made in the slow cooker. Indian as Apple Pie has since grown to include two more cookbooks and a line of food products. Along the way, she has encountered many of the common difficulties experienced by food start-ups: translating her blog-oriented website into an effective platform for her retail brand, finding local partners for scaling production and packaging her products, and raising capital for expanding her business.
To help overcome these challenges, Anupy, like many other food entrepreneurs, turned to The Hatchery, a non-profit food business incubator. The Hatchery is a joint endeavor by three prominent Chicago non-profits – the Industrial Council of Nearwest Chicago (ICNC), Accion and IFF, dedicated to helping food entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. The Hatchery recently unveiled plans for a new 67,000 square-foot facility in East Garfield Park, which Natalie Shmulik envisions as being Chicago’s “silicon valley for food and beverage.” The Hatchery’s new building will include a shared kitchen, 56 private kitchen pods, co-working space and regular classes to help entrepreneurs navigate challenges unique to food businesses. See renderings of The Hatchery’s new facility.
The Hatchery is being developed by IFF; Rich Wallach explained how IFF is spearheading coordination with the City to assemble land, obtain TIF funds and secure financing through other tax credit programs to bring this catalytic development to East Garfield Park. Throughout the development planning process, the development team has collaborated with the East Garfield Community Council to integrate the project into the neighborhood.
The Hatchery is expected to be finished in Fall 2018, and the development team is already looking to Phase II. An additional 2.5 acres of land are available to the east, which could be occupied by a food manufacturing/packing use or by a grocery store. As The Hatchery and its members get settled in the new space, we hope to see that the growth and success of this endeavor will provide an economic boost to both the local food economy and to the surrounding neighborhood!