In ‘Food Deserts,’ Oases of Nutrition

September 15th, 2011

 

In ‘Food Deserts,’ Oases of Nutrition

By Tina Rosenberg

Children waiting in line to purchase an after-school snack.Thatcher Cook for Mercy CorpsSchool girls lined up to purchase after-school snacks at one of the Kedai Balitaku food carts in Jakarta, which serve healthy food to children.

Poor urban neighborhoods in America are often food deserts — places where it is difficult to find fresh food.   There are few grocery stores; people may do all their shopping at bodegas, where the only available produce and meat are canned peaches and Spam.  If they want fruits and vegetables and chicken and fish, they have to take a bus to a grocery store.   The lack of fresh food creates a vicious cycle; children grow up never seeing it or acquiring a taste for it.  It is one reason that the poor are likelier to be obese than the rich.

In many cities across the world, the food desert is a food Sahara.  This is particularly true in the shantytowns of Asian megacities, such as the neighborhoods of North Jakarta where the development agency Mercy Corps worked for about a decade to try to teach mothers about nutrition.  In Jakarta, 17 percent of children under the age of 5 suffer from acute malnutrition, while 12 percent are overweight.  Mercy Corps was doing traditional health education.  But it found that while mothers learned a lot, they continued to feed their babies and small children the same stuff — a diet high in sugar and fat that lacked the nutrients children need to grow.  They knew what they should be feeding their children.   But that food wasn’t a possibility where they lived.

The problems familiar to us in America — the relatively high price of healthy food and the dearth of points of sale — were compounded in Jakarta by another serious obstacle:  no kitchens.  A family cramming six people into one room has nowhere to cook or eat.  When women do cook, they must set up stoves in alleyways behind their houses; they use  water they haul in buckets, which may or may not be clean.  It’s heroic.  But it’s not conducive to healthy eating.

Instead of eating home-cooked food, people in these neighborhoods buy the cheapest meals they can: food from street vendors.  The equivalent of 20 cents in Jakarta can buy a meal of rice fried with soy sauce and a little chicken, or deep fried fish cakes.  Ten cents will buy a snack.   Overcrowded, kitchenless housing has given rise to a culture of street food that has done wonders for tourism in Asian cities — the most crowded parts of the planet.  But it has also condemned tens or hundreds of millions of people to an almost nutrition-free diet.

Mercy Corps couldn’t think of anything traditional that a nongovernmental group could do about this.  So it did something very untraditional:  in April, 2009, it started a healthy street food business called Kedai Balitaku, or My Child’s Café, that has since spun off into a for-profit company.  “The idea was to provide access while raising awareness about healthy food and creating economic opportunity,” said Sean Granville-Ross, Mercy Corps’ Indonesia country director.

Throughout the day, children buy food from Gunanto, a vendor.Mercy CorpsChildren bought food from a KeBal vendor.

This was new.  “Until the last 10 years, the thought that the answer to a problem is ‘let’s go start a social business’ is not one that would be at the front of your mind,” said Randall Kempner, the executive director of the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs.   Starting a business is an intriguing approach that in some situations has advantages over the traditional response of non-governmental organizations.   One is faster potential growth; a proven business has access to pools of investment capital that are much larger than available philanthropy. Another is sustainability  — while philanthropic projects may not outlast a donor’s whims, a successful social business can be there for the long haul.  But social businesses — businesses created for the primary purpose of serving a social need — are often not successful.  Most small businesses fail within a few years of their founding, and the outlook for social businesses is probably even less rosy.  They may be especially hard to do well for nongovernmental groups accustomed to a very different culture.

Mercy Corps started Kedai Balitaku with a $120,000 donation, of which $30,000 is being used for  ongoing training for employees.   In December 2010, Kedai Balitaku — known as KeBal, which means “immune” or “invulnerable” — became an independent limited liability company, with a new manager beginning in March.

KeBal sells niche street food.  Its clientele is children — and it focuses on those 5 years old and younger.  The most popular meal is a chicken, rice and vegetable porridge, which costs the going rate of 20 cents. The leading snack is a 10 cent gelatin pop.  Such pops are a common snack but they are almost always made with artificial fruit flavors; KeBal’s are made with real mango, strawberry, melon or other fruits. The menu also includes meatballs, macaroni and cheese and shu mai dumplings.  The carts use food-grade materials and vendors get regular health inspections from KeBal’s management.   (Jakarta does not inspect street vendors, who sometimes resort to using formaldehyde to keep their food fresh.)

Nutritionists designed the menu, but just as important as what went into the food was convincing mothers to buy it and children to eat it.  The advertising firm Saatchi & Saatchi donated the design of the visual brand and a marketing strategy aimed at children.  The carts have bright colors and play music.  Four dolls on the cart represent different food groups and are named for benefits of good nutrition — Strong, Smart, Lively and Taller.  The cart also has built-in toys teaching shapes or colors that kids can play with while they wait.  They display hand-washing messages and have jugs of water with soap so vendors can wash dishes and children can wash before they eat.   The food is displayed at a child’s eye level.

The food is prepared by KeBal employees in a cooking center, which starts work just after midnight to make food to sell to eight vendors, who begin their routes around 5 a.m.  The vendors take the risks and keep all the profit on the food they sell.

Marinated chicken is a key ingredient in the meals.Thatcher Cook for Mercy CorpsDumplings are a popular item at KeBal carts.

KeBal is about to open a second cooking center, and is planning to have six by the end of the year, each providing food to at least eight vendors.  Next year, as soon as Indonesian franchise law allows, KeBal will also start selling cooking center franchises.  By 2013, the company hopes to own 21 cooking centers and have 10 more owned by franchisees.   That will allow it to feed 6,000 children daily and take in projected revenue of at least $2 million a year.

Can KeBal grow into a major street food brand in Jakarta — and elsewhere?   KeBal is still in start-up mode, but so far it has astoundingly high brand recognition and customer loyalty: a survey of areas where KeBal sells found that 88 percent of households had heard of it and 64 percent buy the food at least three times a week.

School children eating fruit snacks.Thatcher Cook for Mercy CorpsGirls ate fruit snacks purchased at a Kebal cart.

But it faces major challenges particular to social businesses.  One is keeping a competitive price.  Agni Pratama, Mercy Corps’ economic development program manager, said that to attract and keep customers KeBal must match its competitors’ prices — but KeBal’s ingredients are more expensive.   It has had to raise prices on some foods — healthy cookies, for example, couldn’t be sold for 10 cents.  “We are trying to make it up with volume and by developing new menu items that can become substitutes with higher profits,” said Pratama.  “We are trying to see how we can increase prices, but we really have to be careful not to lose customers who are loyal to KeBal.”

It’s the customers who can’t or won’t pay more for a healthy meal who most need KeBal’s food, so it cannot drive them away.  Usye Umanah, who ran the program when it was at Mercy Corps and is now training KeBal’s employees, said that most mothers tend to choose food based on price and portion size.  Mercy Corps is continuing its nutritional education work — and now holding cooking classes for children — in an effort to change that. “We want to get them to include nutrition and health when they decide to buy this or that product,” she said.

Like many social businesses, KeBal exists to bring goods or services to people who otherwise can’t afford them.  An influential book by the business professor C.K. Prahalad argues that there’s a fortune to be made at the bottom of the pyramid.  And, in fact, some large companies, like Unilever, have had success selling things like single-use sachets of shampoo or detergent to very poor people who only have tiny amounts of disposable income at any point in time. But what KeBal is trying to do is harder: not just size-down its products to fit the poor, but build a market from scratch for a new food product that costs more to produce because it is healthier. KeBal has the double challenge of serving people who can’t pay very much while having to change their eating habits.  If this were easy to do profitably, social businesses wouldn’t be necessary.  On Friday I’ll look at other social businesses — successful and not-so successful — and see what can be learned from their stories.

MACS Fill Vacuum Left by MFIs

September 15th, 2011


 

MACS fill vacuum left by MFIs

 

 

 

 

 

 

July 26: While the bank-funded Micro Finance Institutions (MFI) are maintaining a low profile following a string of controversies, the micro-lending schemes run under the AP Mutually Aided Co-operative Society (MACS) Act, 1995, are making a comeback with more self-help groups opting for it to access low-interest loans. There is a growing feeling that the micro-lending model under the MACS system is better as neither there are motorbike-borne MFI company agents to harass the self-help group (SHG) member nor do they need to pay exorbitant rate of interest.

Unlike the banks-funded MFI model, MACS system entirely depends on the financial contribution of its members, whose money is rotated among them. For instance, if an SHG member were to borrow Rs 30,000 from a society run under MACS model, at the end of 10 months, the borrower would have to pay Rs 33,300 at two per cent interest rate.

According to K. Arogyam, chief executive officer (CEO) of city-based VANAM Mahila Paraspara Sahayaka Sahakara Podupu Abhirudhi, Parapathi and Marketing Sangam Ltd, a registered society under the AP MACS Act, their annual turnover in three districts is Rs 10 crore. Besides Nalgonga and Mahbubnagar, VANAM has presence in six mandals of Warangal with a membership of 6,500 and 600 SHGs, some of who turned up to attend their fourth annual meeting at Ambedkar Bhavan on Tuesday to narrate their success stories and to listen to audit report.

“The government should ban all MFI companies as they are run only on profit motive and have become legalised institutions to collect exorbitant rate of interest from poor,” says Ms Arogya, while hailing the MACS model. However, MFI expert and KU Economics professor K. Venkatanarayana has a word of caution for SHGs even as societies under MACS model try to cash in on in the aftermath of the collapse of MFIs. “There are 453 registered MACS societies in Warangal alone but till date nobody knows whether they are getting their annual reports audited by a chartered accountant, which they are required to do under the Act without fail,” he said. In the absence of CA audited annual reports, Prof. Venkatanarayana said that MACS too can take their members for a ride as they are completely autonomous societies.

Incidentally, an RTI application seeking information about how many MACS model societies are regularly getting their annual reports audited by CAs is reportedly being evaded by the district cooperative officer Sanjeeva Reddy.

Clinton Launches Micro-Lending Drive

September 15th, 2011

 

 

Clinton Launches Micro-Lending Drive

 


With thousands of small businesses wiped out by the recession, former president Bill Clinton Wednesday launched a microlending initiative aimed at helping owners in the nation’s hardest hit regions stay afloat.

 

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The move, dubbed Kiva City and announced at the Clinton Global Initiative America conference in Chicago, extends small-business lending strategies used to fight poverty in some of the world’s poorest nations to Detroit, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh and other big American cities.

Led by Kiva.org, an online microlending firm based in San Francisco, and Visa Inc., the initiative seeks to raise awareness of microlending in underserved neighborhoods by rallying support from community leaders. The strategy was initiated in Detroit, where a group including local church leaders and bankers has already hosted a series of BBQs and other networking events.

Microlending connects entrepreneurs with pools of lenders, who contribute as little as $25 each. The loans, which are typically about $7,000, are used to pay rent, buy equipment or cover other daily operations, rather than major capital investments.

“In this economy where lending has tightened up, these kinds of alternative sources of capital are becoming more and more necessary,” says Kiva president Premal Shah.

For instance, Shah says a home-based daycare business may require a few thousand dollars for permits, staff and toys, but isn’t likely to qualify for a traditional bank loan. “Right now, there’s just not enough access to microfinance on the ground to serve these needs,” he says.

According to a study by the Economist Intelligence Unit, commissioned by Kiva and Visa, as many as 15,000 small businesses in the nation’s largest metropolitan regions were closed between 2006 and 2008. Parts of Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania and Michigan experienced the biggest losses, the study found.

Shah says the initiative will target communities identified in the study, which was also released Wednesday.

Since 2005, Kiva has overseen $223 million in lending to more than 577,000 entrepreneurs in 59 countries around the world. It first started offering microloans in the U.S. two years ago.

 

Beautisol Joins Forces With Fite to Help Women Entrepreneurs

September 15th, 2011

Beautisol Joins Forces with FITE to Help Women Entrepreneurs

joinFITE helps thousands of women start or grow their own businesses.

San Francisco, CA, August 06, 2011 –(PR.com)– Beautisol, the leading sun care experts, joins Dermalogica, the world’s leading professional skin-care brand, Lifetime Television and Movie Networks, the number 1 network for women, and actor and advocate Geena Davis, in joinFITE, a new program to bring financial independence to women through entrepreneurship.

joinFITE (powered by Kiva.org) is new microlending platform to help women start or grow their own businesses and thereby help themselves and their communities become more financially independent. Driven by powerful partnerships with thought leaders, celebrities and across multiple industries, joinFITE is simple: you activate a we donate a she invests in her own potential.

Beautisol, a strong advocate of women entrepreneurs and education, is supporting joinFITE as a Featured Partner in an effort to improve the lives of thousands of women across the globe. With joinFITE, Beautisol and its customers take a more personal approach toward philanthropy, not only supporting but learning about each woman entrepreneur. Beautisol therefore not only donates to this important cause, but educates its customers on the positive impact joinFITE has in the lives of low-income women.

“As a woman entrepreneur myself, I know firsthand how challenging it can be to sustain a business, let alone doing so in a low-income community,” said Sinead Norenius, Founder of Beautisol. “It is a privilege to be involved with joinFITE. We are not only empowering women around the world, but strengthening our global economy and educating our customers along the way.”

Beautisol, will release special products with a joinFITE redemption code, and for every code being redeemed, $1.00 will be donated to fund a microloan in a part of the world and type of business of the consumer’s choosing. When a consumer goes to the joinFITE website (www.joinfite.org) and enters the special donation code printed on the joinFITE sleeve packaging, a donation will be allocated to help fund a loan for a woman entrepreneur.

joinFITE, which launched in early 2011, is aiming to help a minimum of 25,000 women in the U.S. and 56 countries around the world to start or grow a business through consumer and corporate active participation in micro-lending. The majority of the microloans will be extended to women in non-industrialized countries, who live below the internationally defined poverty-line.

“We believe that women’s financial independence is crucial to the world, especially in a time of economic uncertainty,” said Jane Wurwand, Founder of Dermalogica. “We hope that more companies like Beautisol take a stand and make a difference and join FITE.”

For more information on special joinFITE-Beautisol products log on to www.beautisol.com or visit www.JoinFite.org for more on the joinFITE campaign.

About joinFITE
JoinFITE is the first global open micro-lending platform designed to engage innovative technology and consumer action on line, offline and through novel strategic partnerships. The campaign, joinFITE — Financial Independence Through Entrepreneurship — specifically benefits women entrepreneurs through economic empowerment to alleviate global poverty. JoinFITE.org is powered by Kiva and targets low-income women in the US and 56 other countries.

About Beautisol
Beautisol is the trusted leader in sun care, providing innovative alternatives and treatments for the sun. The brand was founded and formulated by aesthetician and celebrity beauty expert Sinead Norenius who is committed to educating consumers about beauty while providing them with easy-to-use products. Beautisol offers self-tanners, exfoliators, anti-aging products and accessories as well as the first self-tanner designed specifically for the face based on skin type and condition. All self-tanning products use Beautisol’s innovative Pure Scent fragrance technology. All products are PETA certified and are free of parabens, propylene glycol, sodium laurel and laureth sulfate. For more information visit www.beautisol.com.

About Dermalogica®
Dermalogica® is the leading professional skin care company that provided the startup grant to Kiva, to create joinFITE as an open platform. Dermalogica products are currently sold in over 80 countries at select skin treatment centers on the recommendation of a qualified professional skin therapist in addition to the brand’s concept spaces in Santa Monica, CA; New York, NY; London, England; Berlin, Germany; Auckland, New Zealand; Dubai, United Arab Emirates; and Mumbai, India and online at Dermalogica.com. Dermalogica® is made in the USA, with its global operations based in Carson, just south of Los Angeles. To learn more about Dermalogica® and the brand’s concept spaces, please visit www.dermalogica.com.

Contact Information:
Tonia Korakis
Public Relations Manager
tonia@beautisol.com

###

Contact Information
Beautisol
Tonia Korakis
1.866.237.4293
Contact
beautisol.com

Kiva.org, Visa, Inc. Launch Kiva City in Support of U.S. Small Businesses

September 15th, 2011

 

Kiva.org, Visa, Inc. Launch Kiva City in Support of U.S. Small Businesses

Press Release July 7, 2011

(PRESS RELEASE – July 7, 2011) – Kiva.org, the world’s first personal microlending website, and Visa Inc. (NYSE: V), a global leader in payments, recently announced Kiva City, a new program that will extend small business access to microloans in U.S. cities with the greatest need. The Kiva City program is the latest component of Visa’s partnership with Kiva to help U.S. small businesses by expanding their awareness and understanding of microfinance opportunities. The Kiva City program, kicking off in Detroit, was launched as part of a commitment announced today by President Bill Clinton on stage at the Clinton Global Initiative America conference in Chicago.

Kiva City aims to spur job growth and economic recovery by connecting Kiva’s global network of 592,000 individual lenders with the owners of small businesses throughout the country. With very few microfinance institutions operating at scale in the U.S., Kiva City helps address this challenge by tapping the power of local communities to come together and bring Kiva to their city, particularly those whose small business communities have been most impacted by the recent economic downturn. According to a new study by the Economist Intelligence Unit, commissioned by Kiva and Visa, 20 of the nation’s 50 largest metropolitan statistical areas have lost at least one percent of their small businesses from 2006 to 2008. This represents approximately 15,000 businesses.

The Kiva City program launches in Detroit, which ranked fifth in the study’s list of the top U.S. small business trouble spots. The microloans, made possible through Kiva’s lending partnership with microlender ACCION USA, a member of the ACCION Network in the U.S., will offer Detroit area small businesses an additional option for accessing capital that can be used to fund operations, ranging from purchasing equipment and paying rent, to hiring and retaining employees, to offering promotions.

“Since launching in the U.S. two years ago, we have worked with our partners to replicate our successful global model, empowering each and every American to help our economy by adding as little as $25 to a small business owner’s loan,” said Premal Shah, president of Kiva.org. “But as our study shows, the needs in the U.S. are widespread and many regions simply don’t have microfinance institutions operating at scale. Now, spurred by Visa’s commitment to small business, we are able to expand our reach and, as a result, open new avenues of capital for small business owners across the country.”

How the Program Works

With Kiva City, civic leaders and community members alike have the opportunity to effect meaningful change. The new program extends Kiva’s Internet-based lending model to underserved communities throughout the country—even where microfinance institutions have yet to establish local branches. Working in concert with Kiva and microlending partners, communities join forces and commit the resources to conduct on-the-ground outreach to small business owners to support the three components of microlending: sourcing the businesses to apply for microloans, administering the loans and funding the loans. The average size of Kiva’s field partner loans in the U.S. is $7,000.

“ACCION USA is the vital link between Kiva lenders, communities and the small business owners in Detroit who need our help,” said Gina Harman, President and CEO of ACCION Network in the U.S. “With the visibility, community group connections and committed loan funds provided by Kiva, we believe Kiva City and its launch in Detroit will serve as a model for bringing solutions to more cities across America.”

Detroit became the first Kiva City in partnership with Michigan Corps, a social network of local and global Michiganders committed to positive change in their home state. “Through our partnership with Kiva and ACCION USA, we’ve been able to bring the tools of microfinance to our neighborhood businesses so that they can invest in their growth. Through local networking events, church gatherings, and neighborhood BBQs, we have built an engaged community of small business owners and lenders alike. Detroit is proud to be the pioneer of the Kiva City model.” said Anuja Jaitly, co-founder and executive director of Michigan Corps.

U.S. Small Business Trouble Spots

The Kiva and Visa Study of Small Business Trouble Spots looked at small business trends in the 50 largest metropolitan areas to identify the degree of small business stress there. Some of the more heavily affected regions, like Detroit, also experienced decreases in their employment levels by more than five percent.

The ten regions that experienced the greatest losses of small businesses were:

  • Cleveland-Elyria-Mentor, Ohio
  • Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, Florida
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • Columbus, Ohio
  • Detroit-Warren-Livonia, Michigan
  • Orlando-Kissimmee, Florida
  • Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, Minnesota/Wisconsin
  • Kansas City, Missouri/Kansas
  • Providence-New Bedford-Fall River, Rhode Island/Massachusetts
  • Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, Wisconsin

“Our work, which includes providing products, services and resources to the small business community, confirms that while the economic challenges that small businesses have faced recently are very real, small business owners are resilient and optimistic,” said William M. Sheedy, Group President, Americas, Visa. “We are pleased to continue to work in partnership with organizations like Kiva to help serve small business owners and spur job creation.”

About Kiva.org

Kiva.org is the world’s first personal microlending website, empowering individuals to lend to an entrepreneur across the globe. Founded in 2005, Kiva.org’s mission is to connect people, through lending, to alleviate poverty. Over 595,000 people have loaned more than $223 million to 577,000 entrepreneurs in 59 countries. Kiva.org is headquartered in San Francisco.

About Visa

Visa is a global payments technology company that connects consumers, businesses, financial institutions and governments in more than 200 countries and territories to fast, secure and reliable digital currency. Underpinning digital currency is one of the world’s most advanced processing networks—VisaNet—that is capable of handling more than 20,000 transaction messages a second, with fraud protection for consumers and guaranteed payment for merchants. Visa is not a bank and does not issue cards, extend credit or set rates and fees for consumers. Visa’s innovations, however, enable its financial institution customers to offer consumers more choices: pay now with debit, ahead of time with prepaid or later with credit products.

About Michigan Corps

Michigan Corps is a social network of local and global Michiganders committed to change in our home state. Founded in Detroit in 2010, Michigan Corps builds online and offline community among Michiganders everywhere (i.e. “Corps Members”) while also launching innovative education and entrepreneurship projects across the state.

About ACCION USA and ACCION Network in the U.S

ACCION USA is a non-profit organization leader in U.S. microfinance dedicated to providing microentrepreneurs and individuals on the economic margin with the crucial chance to access capital and develop greater financial literacy. ACCION USA loans range from $500-$25,000 and are offered nationwide.

ACCION USA is a member of the ACCION Network in the U.S. is the largest microfinance network in the United States, having lent in aggregate over $290 million in over 40,000 loans to small businesses since 1991. Through their small business lending and financial education programs, the Network members have fostered job creation, increases in family income, and lasting economic vibrancy for small business owners and their communities nationwide. Members of the ACCION Network include ACCION Chicago, ACCION New Mexico, Arizona & Colorado, ACCION San Diego, ACCION Texas-Louisiana, and ACCION USA.

About the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) and CGI America

CGI America is a new Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) event focused on developing ideas for fostering economic recovery in the U.S. Established in 2005 by President Bill Clinton, CGI convenes global leaders to devise and implement innovative solutions to some of the world’s most pressing challenges. Since 2005, CGI Annual Meetings have brought together nearly 150 current and former heads of state, 18 Nobel Prize laureates, hundreds of leading CEOs, heads of foundations, major philanthropists, directors of the most effective nongovernmental organizations, and prominent members of the media. These CGI members have made nearly 2,000 commitments, which have already improved the lives of 300 million people in more than 180 countries. When fully funded and implemented, these commitments will be valued in excess of $63 billion. The 2011 Annual Meeting will take place Sept. 19-22 in New York City. The CGI community also includes CGI U, which hosts an annual meeting for undergraduate and graduate students, and CGI Lead, which engages a select group of young CGI members for leadership development and collective commitment-making.

Company: Kiva.org
Company URL: http://www.kiva.org/kivacity

 

 

 

 

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3 Responses to “Kiva.org, Visa, Inc. Launch Kiva City in Support of U.S. Small Businesses”

  1.  

    Small Business Loans for Entrepreneurship says:

    […]   Previous Post […]

  2.  

    Georgia Micro Enterprise Network » Blog Archive » Daily News says:

    […] Kiva.org, Visa, Inc. Launch Kiva City in Support of U.S. Small Businesses […]

  3.  

    Small Business Loans for Entrepreneurship | The Loan Consolidation Net says:

    […] Get yourself a microloan. Global microlender Kiva.org and Visa Inc. are teaming up for a program that will make microloans available in some U.S. cities. For more on which communities will be selected and how the program works, be sure to check out the full press release above. Small Business Trends […]