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Sustainable Food Systems

Building a Healthier and More Sustainable Food System

Our food system lending addresses health, economic and social disparities across the country through targeted lending to food businesses and organizations that aim to improve our food system. Guided by principles of sustainability and social justice, we lend to help improve the health and well-being of our communities.

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Lending to Build Stronger Food Systems

Farmer-Owned Hub and Co-op: A Perfect Match

Two Self-Help investments—a farmer-owned food hub and a neighborhood cooperative grocery—work symbiotically to create a sustainable food system:

Eastern Carolina Organics (ECO), a wholesale distributor of local organic produce, has been instrumental in transitioning tobacco farmers to organic produce. ECO returns 80% of every retail dollar to family farms in the region.

The Durham Co-op Market and its 2,000 members buy their produce from ECO. Plus the Co-op gets its meat from a sustainable niche meat aggregator that rents space and shares infrastructure with ECO.

Learn more about our food system loans.


Silvana Rangel

When Self-Help member Silvana Rangel of Durham, NC launched her catering business Soul Cocina in 2015, she focused on wholesome, plant-based foods like her top-selling vegan tamales. She came to Self-Help for a small loan to expand into her first physical location, a food hub in Chapel Hill she’ll share with eight other food entrepreneurs. 

Working with Partners for More Equitable Food Systems

With support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Self-Help aims to increase access to capital for food and farm entrepreneurs. We seek to fill in lending gaps for innovative borrowers most in need by partnering with a national web of lenders and organizations that provide capital and business development resources for underserved food entrepreneurs. Success means helping food entrepreneurs achieve economic security for their own families while also expanding the delivery of healthy food, with all its benefits, in their local communities.

 For more information, check out this Healthy Food System Capital Initiative Overview.


Alleviating Childhood Hunger in North Carolina and Beyond

Self-Help has committed to working with partnering organizations to end childhood hunger. This has included a variety of efforts, such as:

On the national level. Every five years Congress passes a Farm Bill, which shapes key national policies on food, agriculture and rural development. In 2017, Self-Help joined with long-time experts National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition to advocate for policies that affect communities we serve, especially members in rural areas.  Read more about our history serving rural communities alongside USDA here.


Publications of Interest

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