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    Food System Resilience Loan Program Provides Equitable Access To Financing For Santa Barbara County Food Businesses

    SANTA BARBARA, CA – The Santa Barbara County Food Action Network (SBCFAN) and the Economic Development Collaborative (EDC) have launched the Food System Resilience Loan Program, a unique financing option for local food businesses that provides an equitable opportunity to access financing, address gaps in our food system, and ensure that their businesses thrive.

    Many food businesses have been unable to take advantage of traditional financing because there are too many barriers, the structure is too narrow, and the programs are not informed by those who apply for funding. Recognizing this regional need, SBCFAN and EDC designed the Food System Resilience Loan Program to ensure available funding can be used to meet the specific needs of the business, including working capital, inventory, staffing, and equipment. Terms may be tailored to individual circumstances and ability to make repayments – and the interest rate is lower than standard rates at just five percent.

    Informed by its strong regional network of local food system entrepreneurs, SBCFAN was able to identify the most common barriers to financing and help inform the terms of the loan. “When food businesses – especially farmers, ranchers, fisherfolk, and food artisans – have equitable access to capital, they can scale up to meet the demands of our region, continue to provide healthy, locally sourced food for us to eat, and sustain a successful business, “ said SBCFAN Executive Director Shakira Miracle. SBCFAN also serves as a liaison between countywide food businesses and EDC, connecting potential applicants to this uniquely tailored financing opportunity and providing support as needed.

    EDC Director of Lending Marvin Boateng is especially enthusiastic about this new program. “We’re excited to pilot this loan program with SBCFAN to assist food businesses to access capital and free one-on-one consulting. Our aim is to develop new approaches to tackling old problems in financing food businesses. Through continuous engagement, convening, and research, we hope to create a model that could be replicated throughout the state and beyond.” He continued by emphasizing that all applicants are eligible for EDC’s bilingual business advising and resources at no cost. In addition to receiving and vetting loan applications, EDC loans and administers loan funds.

    Since the Food System Resilience Loan Program launched earlier this month, a half dozen food system projects are already underway. SBCFAN Meat Processing Working Group member and loan program participant Robin Macomber is developing a poultry mobile harvesting unit that will provide processing options for small to midsize ranchers in Santa Barbara County. “In just three meetings with their extremely knowledgeable team, EDC helped me develop an operations plan, cash flow analysis, and strategy for navigating potential regulatory barriers,” said Macomber. “Being connected by SBCFAN to the invaluable resources EDC provides has given me a positive perspective on how my business ideas can become reality.”

    The launch of the Food System Resilience Loan Program is just the beginning of a long-term partnership between SBCFAN and EDC to build resilience into the Santa Barbara County food system. “As we look ahead to 2022, we are examining how our organizations can continue to build countywide connections to provide in-person and virtual options for clients to connect with EDC Business Advisors and access the support their businesses need to thrive,” said EDC Strategic Alliance Associate Shelby Arthur. “One way we see this happening is through SBCFAN working groups, which provide the perfect forum for EDC to connect with SBCFAN members, identify their needs, and offer services tailored to those needs,” said Miracle.

    Food businesses are encouraged to visit sbcfan.org/loan to learn more about terms and eligibility and to apply. Applications will be accepted through December 31, 2021. SBCFAN is available to assist applicants with their application and can be emailed at [email protected] For more information about SBCFAN Working Groups, visit sbcfoodaction.org/working-groups.

    About Santa Barbara County Food Action Network (SBCFAN)

    SBCFAN connects, aligns, and activates food system changemakers to develop a robust local food economy, a healthy and just community, and a well-stewarded, resilient foodshed. Our Network provides a hub to facilitate and accelerate cross-sector collaborations, support food system projects, provide access to shared resources, and host public learnings and events. Together, we build equitable solutions for long-term resilience in Santa Barbara County.

    Formed in 2019, SBCFAN supports efforts to advance goals of the Santa Barbara County Food Action Plan, a countywide, community-driven strategic plan that assessed and provided recommendations for how we grow, distribute, consume, and dispose of food. Learn more at SBCFoodAction.org and find SBCFAN on Facebook.com/SBCFoodActionInstagram.com/SBCFoodAction and Linkedin.com/Company/SBCFoodAction. Learn more about the Food Action Plan at https://www.sbcfoodaction.org/food-action-plan/.

    About Economic Development Collaborative (EDC)

    Since 1996, the EDC has been providing a pathway to business growth, economic prosperity, and high quality of life for all. Today, the EDC is a regional asset for economic vitality in Santa Barbara, Ventura, and Los Angeles Counties, giving businesses, community partners and civic leaders the resources they need to succeed at no cost.

    Proudly serving as the region’s Small Business Development Center, our program provides free direct business consulting with a team of over 50 business advisors. As a community-based lender with 67% of our loans awarded to women and minority-owned businesses, our loan program focuses on aligning local entrepreneurs with the capital and financial expertise needed to reach their business needs.

    Signing up as a client takes just a few minutes and provides you with lifetime access to all of our no-cost services. Resources and advising are available in English and Spanish. The Economic Development Collaborative is funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. For more information on the EDC visit www.edcollaborative.com.


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