World Central Kitchen (WCK) welcomed 22 projects to its comprehensive support platform to promote sustainable food projects on the island called Plow to Plate, which offers direct financial support and training to small farmers, agribusinesses, community-based projects, and business initiatives in the food sector.
The goal is to help these entities revitalize their operations after Hurricanes Irma and María and begin to regenerate their long-term capacity for food production, distribution and sales, to slash the island’s high rate of food imports.
“Plow to Plate” offers grants from $5,000 to $20,000 by investing in infrastructure, supplies, equipment or technology so that existing projects in the food industry can accelerate their operations.
In addition, WCK offers its participants access to a variety of training and networking opportunities both in the technical areas of agriculture — to increase their production — and in business skills to increase sales and access to various markets.
WCK also connects farms that are affiliated with the program with visitors to the island who wish to volunteer to provide a human capital for their success and who also participate in the growing trend of agrotourism.
“Our goal is to strengthen Puerto Rico’s food ecosystem, increase local crops to feed families with fresh produce from the island and help reduce food insecurity related to food imports,” said Mikol Hoffman, WCK’s manager in Puerto Rico.
The event, held free of charge at the Banco Popular Foundation, highlighted the 35 projects supported in 2018, as well as the new 22 projects of the first call of 2019. These projects received financial and technical support from WCK and related program assistance.
They volunteer and represent a wide range in the food sector, from small farmers to innovative startups, from bee pollination, to the production of local cheeses and food distribution and sales. In 2018, WCK awarded more than $547,000 in grants to projects affected by Hurricane María and in 2017 awarded more than $200,000 small recovery grants.
The next round of support has awarded more than $362,000, invested pushing the total funds in support of Puerto Rico’s food economy to more than $1 million.
“The activity was a total success. From our perspective it is a rare and essential opportunity to unite farmers and others in the same space with the same purpose and they are achieving it,” said Paula Paoli, farmer and founder of nonprofit agricultural organization Plenitud PR in Las Marías.
Plow to Plate will open two calls per year until 2022 to subsidize initiatives through funds and technical training resources, as required by the selected projects, all to reach more than 200 projects throughout the archipelago and strengthen the food chain in a sustainable and lasting way.
The next call will open on Sept. 1, 2019.