Healthy Food Commerce Investments (HFCI)

Food Hub Business Assessment Toolkit

Whether you are an investor or lender considering investing in a food hub, a food hub operator undertaking business planning, or a policymaker looking to better understand the food hub sector, Wholesome Wave’s Food Hub Business Assessment Toolkit provides you with the tools to evaluate a food hub business’ readiness for investment. The Toolkit provides a framework for assessing the strengths and weaknesses of food hubs in the areas of business model and strategy, impact potential, market overview, marketing and sales, operations, organization and management, risk mitigation, technology and systems, and finance.

To access the toolkit, please click here.



About HFCI

In 2011, Wholesome Wave launched the Healthy Food Commerce Investments (HFCI), a new division with a mission to strengthen regional agriculture by catalyzing the development of regional food infrastructure.

The HFCI team works to direct capital and business development assistance to  mission-driven food distribution & processing enterprises, also referred to as “healthy food hubs.”  These hubs are centrally located facilities with a business management structure facilitating aggregation, storage, processing, distribution, and marketing of regionally produced food products.

It is our goal to help the channels for “local food” expand so regional farms can more reliably, safely and efficiently source product to institutional buyers like hospitals, schools and large dining outlets.  While retail demand for locally grown food has exploded, consistent and simple local sourcing remains problematic for institutional buyers, partly due to challenges with logistics & distribution and marketing.

Across the country, a wave of entrepreneurs have emerged to tackle these challenges, launching farm-centric commercial distribution firms that aim to make local food sourcing easy while preserving farm livelihoods and increasing access to healthy food. HFCI is focused on directing early stage capital and business development assistance to these enterprises.  When managed effectively, these food hub enterprises have the potential to be viable businesses that efficiently connect rural production with urban demand.  The outcome of such commerce drives regional economic activity, raises farm incomes and preserves farmland acreage.

“As I talk to farmers across the country, regardless of what they produce or where, they all share one common challenge: how to best move product from the farm to the marketplace. This is especially crucial for small and midsize farmers who may not have enough capital to own their own trucks, their own refrigeration units, or their own warehouse space. They might not have the resources to develop sophisticated distribution routes, build effective marketing campaigns or network with regional buyers and customers.“

USDA Deputy Secretary, Kathleen Merrigan, April 2011

Research & Resources

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) > Food Hubs

Wallace Center/National Good Food Network Site

Food Safety Modernization Act Requirements for Emerging Food Hub Operators, 2013, sponsored by Wholesome Wave and CLF Ventures

FSMA WEBINAR CORRECTION: Mr. McReynolds notes that he misstated the magnitude of the FDA’s estimates of the cost of FSMA compliance for food processing facilities in his remarks at the 71 minute mark of the webinar recording.  FDA’s estimates of the aggregate annualized cost of compliance with the preventive controls rule are $350 million for firms employing fewer than 20 employees, and $1.3 million for firms with 500 or more employees.  The proportions of expenses borne by those sectors is still 73% for the small firm sector and 0.27% for the large firm sector, despite the fact that those small firms produce only 4% of the food shipped into commerce.  Moreover, the $350 million and $1.3 million calculations are annualized costs over 7 years.  The first year estimated aggregate costs to firms with fewer than 20 employees is $475 million.

Meet our dedicated Healthy Food Commerce Investments team

Daniel Ross, Vice President of Business Development, Wholesome Wave

Recognized as a leading social entrepreneur with a lifetime fellowship from Ashoka – Innovators for the Public Good. MIT Sloan Fellow for Innovation and Global Leadership, MIT Legatum Fellow for Development and Entrepreneurship.

16 years as Executive Director of Nuestras Raíces, a grass-roots organization to promote economic, human and community development in Holyoke, Massachusetts through projects relating to food, agriculture and the environment, nationally recognized for innovation.  He has helped community members start over 25 small food and agriculture businesses, launched Energía for-profit social enterprise energy-efficiency services company.  Founding leader of various local and state-wide food systems and environmental policy coalitions.

Founder and principal of DAISA Enterprises LLC conducting business planning and change management consulting. Daniel holds an MBA from MIT Sloan School of Management, BA in Political Science from Oberlin College.

Malini Ram Moraghan, Managing Director, HFCI

Malini has been working with farms and food systems since 2009.  With a group of farmers, she co-founded the Red Hills Small Farm Alliance, an organization focused on strengthening small farm enterprises through market-driven solutions and “right-sized regulation.”  The Farm Alliance, which operates in the fertile region of North Florida, was successful in launching an online farmers market and helping to change  state regulations which resulted in expanded market access for small and medium size egg producers in the State of Florida.

Prior to this, Malini was an Engagement Manager with McKinsey & Co., where she worked with corporate consumer products clients on growth strategy, international expansion, and sales & marketing.  Malini’s past experience also includes investment banking at JPMorgan in New York and serving her community as an AmeriCorps VISTA in New Jersey.

Malini has an MBA from University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business and a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Cooper Union.  She is based in Chicago.

Darrow Vanderburgh-Wertz, Portfolio Manager

Darrow was raised in Durham, North Carolina where she learned to be a Duke basketball fan and do a back walkover (a feat she can still sorta do).  Darrow went to an arts-focused public high school in Durham where she focused on drama and photography.  She attended Yale University, graduating in 2007 with a degree in history.  After biking across the country, she settled in San Francisco, CA, where she worked as a community organizer, development associate for an afterschool non-profit, and, then, an active transportation advocate.  In 2011, she returned to Durham to attend Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy where she focused on food and agricultural policy and worked on projects around creating access to healthy food and building a sustainable food system.
Raphael Leonard, Wholesome Wave Food & Farm FellowA graduate of Babson College, Raphael founded and managed Olakino (healthy) Vending for two years before selling it to clear time to further his educational goals. At Babson Raphael began traveling during his junior year, and quickly became involved in affordable entrepreneurship projects in India, and teaching entrepreneurship to high school students in Ghana, and Uganda. He was raised in a family where food and health have always been a central value of life.

If you are interested in learning more about how your organization could engage with Wholesome Wave’s programs, please fill out this form.