Open Access NYC helps food entrepreneurs grow their businesses
3 mins read

Open Access NYC helps food entrepreneurs grow their businesses

New York University and Food & Society at the Aspen Institute have launched a new online portal aimed at supporting BIPOC food entrepreneurs in the New York City area.

The new free online portal Open Access NYC (https://aspen-open-access-new-york.herokuapp.com/) was created to help people who want to open a food business but may not be familiar with all the procedures they need to implement to run the business or how to maintain the business and keep the license once it is up and running.

During a July 9 webinar announcing the launch of Open Access NYC, Corby Kummer, executive director of Food & Society at the Aspen Institute, shared how his organization’s efforts to promote healthy diets have had to confront the reality that many communities lack access to healthy food.

“We put together a very long report that compiled all the peer-reviewed research on food-is-medicine interventions,” Kummer explained, “the only one of its kind. The National Institutes of Health used it as the basis for calling for the Centers of Excellence and Food-is-Medicine.

“We were incredibly excited to be working on nutrition interventions. But the way to survive is always to empower people to thrive economically while helping others. So we wanted to help people of color and BIPOC food entrepreneurs bring healthier food to underserved neighborhoods that need it and make money doing it.”

However, when organizations or individuals try to create programs or restaurants where they can offer healthy foods, they too often face bureaucratic or financial obstacles that can hinder or even destroy their efforts.

That’s where Open Access portals come in. Open Access NYC is now the fourth city-wide program in the country, following on from portals already in operation in Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC.
The portals are designed to help anyone looking to open a food-oriented business navigate all the local and sometimes national certifications they might need. The site will also include resources that can help a new business find restaurant suppliers, apply for grants or provide information on financial institutions that can help with loans.

Caroline Karanja, CEO of Hack the Gap, the organization that helped design the portal, said Open Access NYC “is really a starting point for food entrepreneurs: from caterers to packaged food specialists. This website really brings together the most important starting points and resources for those looking to start and grow their food businesses.

“It’s like a digital collaboration of resources from the SBA to local nonprofits and private software services whose products and offerings can help you grow your food business,” she added. “The platform has videos, access to templates, checklists, and in some areas, just good old-fashioned instructions on how to do things like think about marketing, how to get the right kind of permit or license, and all of that stuff here is really just the beginning of the platform.”

Open Access NYC aims to be a “one-stop shop” for food entrepreneurs of color. The site plans to be updated with new information as rules and regulations continue to change.