In March 2015, Georgia Food Oasis-Atlanta (GFOA) hosted its first Potluck & Pitch. Potluck & Pitch is a dynamic event derived from the model created by Detroit Soup that combines a public meal with a democratic experiment in microfunding. The bi-annual event provides a platform and seed funding for the Atlanta community to share homegrown ideas to improve local food access and food systems. In advance of the event, potential participants are invited to submit their innovative ideas to help the community eat, cook and grow fresh and healthy food choices.
Five entrants are selected to pitch their ideas at a ticketed potluck style event. Audience members vote for their favorite pitch and the winner is awarded the proceeds of ticket sales from the event. Event tickets are set at $10 with an attendance goal of 100. To date, GFOA, has hosted 3 Potluck & Pitch events that have provided over $3,000 in direct funding to winners and over $10,000 in leveraged funding to pitch participants, winners and otherwise.
Past winners return to future pitch events and provide updates on project progression and growth. Our most recent winner was Ayaresa. Ayaresa started as a co-op 12 years ago when Yinka Winfrey noticed that her fellow stay-at-home moms in the neighborhood were all independently buying the same kinds of foods for their families that included organic fresh produce and other healthy items. She realized they would get a better deal if they could pool their resources and buy together in bulk. In addition to cost savings from bulk purchasing, the co-op model also keeps food waste close to zero, which became a priority for Yinka as a result of her experience while employed at a big box retailer; witnessing large amounts of food being thrown out daily. What started out as a simple co-op with everyone putting in equal amounts of time and work slowly evolved into a small business opportunity with Yinka at the helm.
Yinka works to create genuine connections with the people she buys from and to whom she sells and this has been a key factor in her success. Her large network came out in force to support Ayaresa at Potluck & Pitch and vote for her idea. After winning the March 2016 event, she's been paying it forward by purchasing from local farmers whenever possible. It's important to her to give back to the local economy and create a community over food.
In the near future, Yinka is pursuing licensing so she can expand her operations. She hopes to be able to make it easier for more people to eat fresh produce by delivering it to them as well as partnering with schools for pick-ups by parents and delivering to senior living facilities. She hopes to create a platform to make eating healthy a no-brainer. “You can tell people how to eat healthy all you want, but it won't make a difference if they can't access it and actually put those ideas into practice," said Yinka Winfrey.
-Yvonne Wagner, Food Oasis Program Associate
About Food Oasis:
The Atlanta Community Food Bank is backbone supporting organization in a collaborative effort of community, organizations, business, funders, etc. to improve fresh and healthy food distribution in underserved neighborhoods. The Georgia Food Oasis program helps communities develop innovative and affordable ways for residents to discover, taste and learn about food. By working together, neighbors, nonprofits and community leaders can help community members shop smarter, eat healthier and feel better. Through an Eat – Cook – Grow strategy, the Georgia Food Oasis will enhance opportunities for residents to come together to cook up their own food future. While the Westside Atlanta is the pilot location, the Food Oasis will be replicated throughout Georgia. Over the next 3 years, ACFB will expand Food Oasis throughout the City of Atlanta, while Georgia Organics focuses on expanding Food Oasis throughout the state. www.georgiafoodoasis.org