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Business // Roundtable
MidWeek Staff

Loans For Food Businesses

Patti Chang and Denise Albano
CEO and President of Food for Thought

Providing microloans to deserving entrepreneurs and small business owners in Hawaii’s sustainable food industry, Food for Thought is making a difference in people’s lives and Hawaii’s food security future. With more than $200,000 already funding various projects and another $2 million in loans available, we are empowering low-income individuals who would not otherwise qualify for bank loans with the capital and resources to start or grow their businesses.

Recently, the U.S. Economic Development Administration awarded Food for Thought a $1 million grant. This grant, plus another $1 million from our investors, makes more than $2 million available for loans. We are calling for applicants!

Prior to founding Food for Thought, Patti and I worked for more than 20 years with various nonprofits to better the lives of those in need and strengthen communities. Patti served as president and CEO of the Women’s Foundation of California, which funded more than 1,100 organizations throughout California and internationally. Denise’s heart has gone out to disadvantaged youths as the former executive director of several organizations that offered youth housing, medical and educational services.

Our passion to give back was passed down by our mothers, strong women who overcame many hardships to provide us with opportunities they were never given. We believe in giving to those who have less, so they in turn may give to others as our mothers did.

In 2008 we took our vision to end poverty and promote food sustainability worldwide, founding the Feed the Hunger Foundation, an international microloan nonprofit with headquarters in California. This foundation has since benefitted recipients in Asia, Africa and Latin America by lending to those with commitment and a viable business idea but who could never qualify for a conventional loan. We have issued 2,500 loans worldwide, most of them to women, with a 99 percent repayment track record to date.

Recognizing our lessons learned abroad can be applied in Hawaii, we have brought the foundation’s good work back home by forming Food for Thought as an extension program under the foundation. Food for Thought supports Hawaii’s local and sustainable food production, funding a wide range of food-related enterprises from farms to mom-and-pop cafes. Farmers in Kunia Agricultural Park used Food for Thought loans to provide monthly produce boxes to consumers in communities with no grocery stores. Kako’o ‘Oiwi built a nursery that supplies food for local restaurants with a loan from Food for Thought. The creative ways in which our microloans can further Hawaii’s food sustainability efforts are endless.

Through the Pacific Gateway Center, Food for Thought has issued more than 20 microloans in the past year. We have partnered with nonprofits such as Kako’o ‘Oiwi, Adaptions Inc., Green Wheel Food Hub, WOW Farms and Haha Organics to further Food For Thought’s commitment to the community and enhancing Hawaii’s food security. We are constantly working to turn around the statistics that show Hawaii imports 80 percent of its food and exports 90 percent of what it grows.

If you believe strongly in a business or an idea involved in any way with local food production, share your passion with us. If you have tried the traditional route of bank loans with no success, contact us and apply for a microloan. We not only provide capital but also valuable network connections and resources.

We invest in people who want to make an impact, a change, not just for themselves but also for their community.

For more information about Feed the Hunger Foundation and its Hawaii Food for Thought program, visit feed-hunger.com. To apply for a loan, contact Denise Albano at denisealbano@feed-hunger.com.

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