By: Jessica Kaufman
August 4th 2015
The face of hunger in America is changing. The coworker sitting next to you every day, the student getting onto the school bus each morning, and even your next door neighbor, may deal with hunger. 1 in 7 Americans rely on Feeding America’s food assistance programs- that’s 46.5 million people each year. 12 million of them are children. Sources like Feed America can not solve this issue alone. As they say, “Receiving support from hunger-relief charities and the government is a growing and crucial component for individuals to secure food for themselves and their families.”
Food 4 Good is a nonprofit organization solving this problem one meal and one truck stop at a time with their food truck and mobile soup kitchen. Julius Searight, a graduate of Johnson and Wales University with a degree in Culinary Arts and a concentration in Entrepreneurship, started Food 4 Good to provide delicious food to the people who need it while giving the community the opportunity to improve the lives of others.
During the day, the truck operates like a normal food truck throughout the city. Food 4 Good serves comfort food like chicken sandwiches, fries and wings. $5 from each meal sold allows Food 4 Good to provide two free meals a day. At dinner time four days a week, the truck transforms into a mobile soup kitchen. The goal of Food 4 Good is to provide 100 meals a day. Julius plans to work with local libraries to create standard stops and prepare the meals out of a kitchen at the local homeless shelter, Crossroads.
Julius got the idea to start Food 4 Good from personal experiences. Julius was adopted after living in multiple foster homes and knew his biological mother dealt with food insecurity. After volunteering at local shelters and soup kitchens, Julius realized that the demand for food assistance was massive. The food insecurity rate in Rhode Island is 14.4%- that’s 151,840 hungry people every day. Julius explains, “I saw the need to give back to people and create an awareness about hunger in Rhode Island. People don’t want to talk about hunger for various reasons and there is a stigma about what a hungry person looks like but today, with the price of food skyrocketing and other factors, a hungry person could be anybody.”
Starting a mobile soup kitchen could even help those who don’t struggle with hunger by raising awareness about the issue. Julius explains, “I want to be an activist for the issue of hunger and food security. With Food 4 Good, it puts the issue out in the open as a mobile soup kitchen for everyone to witness the issue that Americans are facing.”
Julius acquired the Food 4 Good truck at a silent auction two years ago and outfitted the interior of the truck through grants and donations. The truck is 90% finished and Julius plans to have it up and running in early October. Julius’s biggest dream for Food 4 Good is to prove that their business model works and can be implemented in other states across the country. He says, “What inspires me to keep going as an entrepreneur is to see a finished product. I am really focusing on proving that this model is sustainable and can be used in other states.”
Julius knew he wanted to start a business, but he never thought he would start one as a student. The Johnson and Wales Entrepreneurship Center helped Julius realize that he didn’t have to wait until after college to start. Like a true social entrepreneur, Julius knew he wanted to do well and do good, he says, “From my culinary experience at Johnson and Wales and my concentration in entrepreneurship I am able to understand the business side of things. I think it is important to focus on both the business and the mission.”
Social Enterprise Greenhouse in Providence helped Julius turn his idea and passion for food into a social venture. Julius participated in both the Incubator and the Accelerator program offered at Social Enterprise Greenhouse. As he says, “Social Enterprise Greenhouse has opened a lot of doors for me and I have been able to meet a lot of people who have helped my business through their network.”
There may be other food trucks in Providence, but Julius believes he will succeed because of his social mission. As he says, “The market for food trucks in Providence is saturated, but I will be able to survive because I am doing such a unique thing. My mission is what differentiates my business.” The future for Julius includes a sustainable revenue stream, a food line of Food 4 Good products, and a potential partnership with fellow Accelerator Graduate Sankofa who brings food markets to urban areas. To learn more about Food 4 Good, check out their website and Facebook.
Student Venture Intern
Jessica Kaufman is the Social Enterprise Greenhouse Student Venture Intern for Summer 2015. She is working under the Social Enterprise Greenhouse University Initiative, which is funded through the Blackstone Charitable Foundation Innovation Grant to retain students and recent graduates in Rhode Island through enabling them to work on and in social enterprises. Her work centers around documenting the success stories of student and recent graduate social ventures. Learn more about Jessica here.