“You’re already spending money to eat. Why not spend it for you and someone else to eat?”
That’s the question CEO and founder of Food4Good, Julius Searight, wants you to consider. Searight wants to launch a “non-profit Social Conscience food truck,” and he’s looking for your help to crowdfund it. Searight’s plan sounds straightforward, but hasn’t been tried before: to create a food truck business who’s sales will help fund a mobile soup kitchen.
The idea sprung out of Searight’s love for cooking and his desire to give back to the community. Having grown up in foster homes—Searight was in 13 foster homes before the age of 3, when he first came to his now-adoptive family—he’s always gravitated toward community service. As he told me when we met at the Johnson & Wales University Entrepreneurship Center, he knows what it feels like to not have a lot and wants to give back. So while Searight studied at JWU in the Culinary and Food Service Management program he was always trying to find ways to give back.
Searight joined the Americorps program and was placed at Crossroads Rhode Island around 10-15 hours a week. Halfway through his time there they moved him to the family program to run the food program. He would hear moms say to their children, “Don’t eat a lot for dinner, you’ll eat tomorrow at school.” Searight realized “those families didn’t want to go to a soup kitchen. They know by Friday, or next week, mom will get a paycheck, so they feel a need to hold themselves over until they can.” Searight would see that a lot of the kids in the family program were hungry, “but they don’t want to say they’re hungry.”
Realizing that there’s a group of people with limited resources, Searight started to formulate a business model using his culinary education that he’s hoping can help people who won’t go to a soup kitchen, for whatever reason, but may use one that’s made available to them where they live.
His plan is to launch a food truck that will operate like any other three days a week, selling great food to the public–his planned menu includes comfort finger-food items like wings, fries and shakes. The sales from those three days will in turn fund the truck’s role the other four days of the week, acting as a mobile soup kitchen.
Searight hopes to hand out about 100 hot meals a day to those that come when Food4Good is in mobile soup kitchen mode. It will be first come, first serve and he’s looking at locations around the city, hoping to cover the south side, west end, north end and east side, one day each a week. Searight is currently looking for those right spots, thinking he could partner with a library or with a community center to find a location that will help the most people in need.
Searight also plans to connect with local corporations to ask them to sponsor days or weeks of food, using their donations to allow Food4Good to give away healthy, nutritious food when it’s a soup kitchen. He’s been talking to farmers markets and restaurants to donate their “seconds” (food not considered visually pretty to sell, but completely edible). The beauty of being a mobile restaurant is his truck can come and get food donations from places, instead of putting the burden upon the donors to deliver it to Food4Good.
If Searight raises the needed funds to launch the business, essentially to buy the truck, he hopes to be up and running in the Spring of 2014. Typical of an entrepreneur, Searight is already thinking he would like to apply the model to other cities, looking at Central Falls and Pawtucket.
Food4Good needs your funding now to make this possible. Searight has been honing the plan and working out the kinks for over a year now. He entered and competed in Providence Startup Weekend 2012, where he came in 3rd place. Searight pitched it at the JWU pitch event SharkFest, where he didn’t win, but was allowed to come to the Entrepreneurship Center as an intern where he’s been incubating the business.
He’s applied for 501(c)(3) status for Food4Good and registered with the state of Rhode Island as a non-profit so he can apply for grants. There is a traditional fundraising event on November 1st from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m., at the JWU Entrepreneurship Center in downtown Providence. Tickets are $25 (purchase online here) and there will be a silent auction to raise funds as well.
When it was suggested to me to look into Food4Good I watched Searight’s summary pitch on his Foodstart fundraising page, as soon as that ended I felt compelled to search out his original video from JWU’s Fearless speaker series, and then I immediately sent a message to the head of the series to put me in touch with Searight (both videos are featured below).
Searight’s passion for his project is infectious on video and even more so in person. There are many worthwhile crowdfunded projects and charities to help but I hope you put Food4Good at the top of your list and help out with whatever you can. The links again:
- Crowdfunding Food4Good on Foodstart
- Purchase tickets to Food4Good Fundraiser and Silent Auction on November 1
- Food4Good on Facebook
- Julius Searight on Twitter
As Searight said, when you eat from the Food4Good truck, “maybe your meal from will cost a dollar more. You’re already spending money to eat. Why not spend it for you and someone else to eat?”