Tel. +1 (818) 925-4294

Welcome to Food Centricity®, a business accelerator focused on breaking market, business and financial barriers for early and growth stage food companies.

Food Centricity connects and streamlines all necessary resources to launch, groom and grow your food business in Southern California and beyond. 

Food Centricity enables and accelerates Food Makers' success.

Natural Innovation Today: Supporter Spotlight: Food Centricity


Supporter Spotlight: Food Centricity

New Hope Network staff | Apr 27, 2017

In this new series, we highlight accelerators and incubators that are offering assistance to food startups across the country. Here, we feature Food Centricity, which enables and accelerates food companies' success in Southern California and beyond. We talked with founder and CEO Michel Algazi.

What type of companies do you assist?

Food Centricity: Early- and growth-stage food and beverage companies in the pre-revenue to $5M per year range. Mainly packaged goods companies targeting direct-to-consumer or wholesale channels. We're particularly interested in functional or plant-based products and technologies.

What’s your mission in doing this work?

FC: Small food businesses are a critical growth engine and important source of new, "clean" jobs for our region, yet they encounter large obstacles on their path to growth.

Through our proprietary acceleration process, focused on addressing major pain points faced by food startups, we move them to tearing down operational and market barriers, guide them into following best management practices, and connect them to size-appropriate resources they might need to grow.

We support diversity on the job and on the shelf. We encourage local, responsible sourcing and clean labels.

What attributes are you looking for in applicants?

FC: We look for driven and capable entrepreneurs or teams with certain characteristics that we have identified as likely predictors of success. We also look at product-market fit in growth categories.

What one piece of advice do you have for entrepreneurs?

FC: A good piece of advice would be to not expand beyond their immediate region before they are truly ready. Entrepreneurs often get lured in extending their reach to other regions before they have the experience and resources to do a good job at it. The result is broad and shallow distribution, high shipping costs and poor customer service.

What is your favorite project to come out of your accelerator?

FC: I am very excited to see Maika Foods launch into the marketplace with its line of plant-based nutrition products and get solid early traction with retailers and consumers. I am very optimistic about its chances for success.

LA Prep and Food Centricity - Innovative Food Prep in Downtown Los Angeles

by Phil Lempert, The Supermarket Guru

June 25, 2015

Innovative food producers who already have a small foothold in the market, but want to take the next step forward, can often find themselves in a tough financial spot.  Between rent space and all the various permits taking that next step can he hard..which is where the newly opened LA Prep steps in.

Michel Algazi Founder & CEO, Food Centricity Co-Founder, LA Prep

LA Prep is a multi-tenant food production space that has just opened in the LA area in the last two months. 

It allows food producers in an environment that’s going to be easy to service and permit, to produce wholesale products. Traditionally small production spaces do not lead to a wholesale production permit, but LA Prep does lead to that. So you are going to have a community of 54 food makers on site that are going to be making local, artisanal, for sale in LA and beyond. 

PHIL: In conjunction with L.A Prep is Food Centricity, a business accelerator focused on helping early and growth-stage food companies break market, business and financial barriers.

MICHEL: Food Centricity is a food business accelerator, and it is a partner at LA Prep. So what we offer at LA prep and another location in OC is food accelerator programs which means helping companies get to market quickly, and grow. 

We address 4 major points in the market place. Time to market, traditionally companies take about 18 months to get a product to market through our services  we think we can help get companies to market in about 4 months. 

Second pain point is cost of doing business and particularly cost of ingredients. We’ve created a buying group we help  companies buy in group and get access to discounts. The third point is access to the business and knowledge of the market place And finally access to working capital. By helping companies get through the first three pin points what we’re doing is de-risking an investment process so we also connect companies to potential investors. If people are interested in learning more about LA Prep they can go to  And if people would like to learn more about Food Centricity they can go to

PHIL: Recently opened in Lincoln Heights, L.A Prep is ready for business with more than 50 commercial prep zones!

L.A. Prep Launches 56,000 Square Foot Food Incubator in Lincoln Heights

Eater Los Angeles

by Farley Elliott Apr 7, 2015, 10:57a @overoverunder

One of the biggest recent boons to California’s growing cottage food industry is L.A. Prep, a highly anticipated Lincoln Heights warehouse space that’s been converted into more than 50 commercial prep zones for home cooks and bakers looking to make the next leap forward. After more than a year of red tape wrangling and construction, L.A. Prep officially opens today.

The 56,000 square foot space was built by L.A.'s Civic Enterprise Development team, and is meant to be a functional mix of personal kitchen and community areas. Workers can lease their own space for whatever project they have in mind, like producing artisanal semolina pastas or canning or bread making, while sharing walk-in space and other communal kitchen access. Rent isn’t cheap of course, but for lots of home goods makers it’s the only way to grow beyond the four walls of their personal kitchen and into a larger retail market.

Places likes these are commonly known as food incubators, though L.A. Prep styles itself as more of a place for mid-level companies who already have a small foothold in the market, and want to take the next step forward. As a result, the space comes fully coded by the city and will feature a USDA inspector for any of the butchers on site. Anyone leasing space on site also has access to L.A. Prep's cadre of business professionals and advice-givers, who can help navigate all of the behind-the-scenes paperwork (tenants work to earn their own permitting from the L.A. County Department of Public Health).

With 54 commercial kitchens available, L.A. Prep is now allowing those who have already signed leases to move on in, and are 50% leased. They hope to be maxed out on production space in short order, given the rise in local demand for handmade, local products.

L.A. Prep
230 W. Avenue 26
Los Angeles, CA

At L.A. Prep, artisanal food makers can rent their own kitchens

L.A. Times


Zlicious Confections owner Matt Walton, who currently uses a co-packer for his caramel corn, is looking forward to the flexibility of having his own space at L.A. Prep in Lincoln Heights.

Zlicious Confections owner Matt Walton, who currently uses a co-packer for his caramel corn, is looking forward to the flexibility of having his own space at L.A. Prep in Lincoln Heights.

Matt Walton, who currently uses a co-packer for his caramel corn, is looking forward to the flexibility of having his own kitchen at L.A. Prep. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

L.A. Prep, set to open this month, will rent 54 commercial kitchens to artisanal food manufacturers.

Small food makers who don't want to use shared kitchens can rent their own facility at L.A. Prep.

Matt Walton's caramel corn was a hit. Gourmet shops were clamoring for more, hooked on a recipe handed down by his grandmother.

But Walton hit a wall. He couldn't find a commercial kitchen to expand production.

His company was too big for his home, and too small to afford the tens of thousands of dollars needed to renovate a leased space to meet health codes.

A new project in Lincoln Heights called L.A. Prep is aimed at helping Walton and a growing number of local artisanal food manufacturers that are primed to one day hit the shelves of Costco or Trader Joe's.

Located in a 56,000-square-foot industrial building, L.A. Prep will rent 54 commercial kitchens outfitted with stoves, stainless-steel countertops and walk-in refrigerators to tenants, who can come and go as they please.

If we didn’t find this place, it would have inhibited our growth projection and entire business model. L.A. Prep allows us to use the hub-and-spoke model
— Susan Dane Setin

"There really isn't a place for the people in between like me," said Walton, who founded his Zlicious Confections in 2012 and signed a one-year lease for a 333-square-foot kitchen at L.A. Prep at $3,600 a month. "There's a huge need for this."

Shared kitchens and food incubators and accelerators have grown in response to the rise of specialty foods — think small-batch snacks, cheese and olive oils that show up in pricey delis and your neighborhood Whole Foods.

The specialty foods industry grew 21% from 2012 to 2014 to $109.6 billion, according to the New York-based Specialty Food Assn.

Many in California — the epicenter of the artisan food business — have been aided by the state's cottage food law, which was enacted two years ago allowing the production of food in homes for limited sale.

The challenge for new producers is how to scale up at an affordable cost, which is why many of the current small commercial kitchens for lease allow entrepreneurs to share space or even rent by the hour. (Some restaurants will also defy laws by renting out their kitchens to small food manufacturers.)

Many turn to co-packers, contracted manufacturers that serve several food producers. That's cheaper than leasing a kitchen but comes with less control over quality and flexibility with production volumes.

Walton of Zlicious currently uses a co-packer but is looking forward to the flexibility of his own kitchen at L.A. Prep just in case he has to fill a big order from a major retailer.

Other avenues for up-and-coming food businesses include universities. Rutgers in New Jersey and Oregon State University are among a few institutions that operate food innovation centers, which focus on development rather than full-scale production.

Zlicious Confections owner Matt Walton, who currently uses a co-packer for his caramel corn, is looking forward to the flexibility of having his own space at L.A. Prep in Lincoln Heights.

Construction is underway at L.A. Prep, which will rent 54 commercial kitchens outfitted with stoves, stainless-steel countertops and walk-in refrigerators to tenants.

Jean-Claude Setin, owner and master butcher of Le French Butcher, is photographed inside his business space at the L.A. Prep facility, which is still under construction.

Some leased commercial kitchens are mission-driven, such as La Cocina in San Francisco, which serves low-income food entrepreneurs in the Mission District.

None, however, approach the scale of L.A. Prep.

"Most of them are much smaller," said Ron Tanner, vice president of philanthropy and government and industry relations for the Specialty Food Assn., who counted 110 food incubators across the country. "This is a very ambitious project. They aren't looking so much for businesses in the start-up phase but maybe people in business for two to three years."

Set to open later this month if all goes well, L.A. Prep will house bakers, paleo diet chefs, pasta makers and a butcher, among others.

More than half the kitchens have already been leased at a cost of between $2,000 and $9,000 a month, depending on the size of the space.


First-Of-Its-Kind Kitchen Provides Businesses An Opportunity For Growth

MOUNT WASHINGTON ( — From Sonoma to Los Angeles, Leah Ferrazzani’s love of food grew while living up and down the California coast.

But as an avid cook, she noticed something important was missing at the grocery store.

“I was pregnant with my second child and really realizing that I didn’t have a lot of time to make fresh pasta anymore and wanted to find some locally made dry pasta to feed my family and couldn’t,” she explained.

Ferrazzani decided to teach herself how to make fresh pasta in big batches.

“As I was doing my research, not only did I find out that there was only about a dozen small dry pasta manufacturers in the country, but that most of the pasta that we import from Italy is made from American wheat,” she said.

Within two years, Ferrazzani created a home foodbusiness called Semolina Artisanal Pasta.

Semolina, of course, is a kind of wheat.

Ferrazzani makes everything from shells to spaghetti and her kitchen has been certified by the healthdepartment.

But like many small-batch producers, Ferrazzani has outgrown her own kitchen, which is where LA Prep comes in.

LA Prep is a food production center that houses businesses ready to reach a higher level of production by renting out kitchens. It’s the only venue of its kind in the country. Before, people like Ferrazzani, had to use a co-packer or build a commercial kitchen, which could cost more than $200,000.

“They’re putting together all of the steps so that once you sign your lease, you’re applying to the state and city permits so the day you move in, you can hit the ground running,” Ferrazzani said.

Ferrazzani presently makes 200 pounds of pasta a week but when her new kitchen is ready in March, she’ll be able to double that.

Food ‘Accelerators’ and the $10 Bag of Pasta



Produced By: WSJ 

LOS ANGELES—A couple of days each week, after dropping off her two toddlers at day care, Leah Ferrazzani hauls a commercial-grade extruder into her kitchen and gets to work shaping and cutting organic pasta. She then carefully dries it on racks in what used to be the family’s laundry room.

Ms. Ferrazzani launched Semolina Artisanal Pasta in October. She said the business quickly exceeded her home kitchen’s capacity of about 250 pounds a week. “In L.A., there are really people who get behind your food,” said Ms. Ferrazzani, who sells her pasta in one-pound bags for $10 each.

As tastes shift toward specialty, local and organic foods, more so-called “food startups” are entering the market. According to PitchBook, a private financial database, close to $570 million in venture capital has been invested over the past five years in companies that produce food for consumption, or prepared foods, with the number of deals involving startup food makers growing to 36 in 2014 from 13 in 2011.

And for good reason: The specialty food business is booming. The National Association for the Specialty Food Trade says the sector hit a record $88.3 billion in sales in 2013, and continued to grow in 2014. The association attributed the sector’s popularity to “growing concern” among consumers about sustainability and health, as well as increased interest in “small-batch production”—knowing where food is made and who made it.

As demand for their products grows, food startups like Ms. Ferrazzani’s—many of which source their ingredients close to home, sell mainly in nearby shops and are restricted to producing limited quantities in their home kitchens—are finding they need to scale up quickly for wholesale distribution. And that can be difficult.

Regulatory requirements have complicated the transition from selling goods at local retail shops to distributing them wholesale to large grocery chains. Wholesale buyers have stricter health standards than local retailers, requiring significant upfront investment by producers.

Los Angeles County’s public health inspectors are now re-evaluating the rules. Some state health codes have already changed in recent years to ease the startup process in the cottage food industry, or businesses that operate out of their home kitchens. New legislation is what helped Semolina Artisanal Pasta first get off the ground, but the law restricts cottage food businesses to less than $50,000 a year in sales.

In Los Angeles County alone, according to the U.S. Census, the number of food manufacturing businesses with fewer than 10 employees grew to almost 2,000 in 2012, from less than 1,500 10 years earlier.

Angelo Bellomo, Los Angeles County’s director of environmental health, said health inspectors are now trying to foster those small businesses’ need to grow. “We’re being innovative in how we interpret and apply the requirements” of the state health code “without sacrificing their basic health protections,” he said.

The current regulatory system was tailored to accommodate larger-scale food producers, which have a major presence here. Los Angeles County is home to Sunkist Growers and the U.S. headquarters of Nestlé, among other large companies.

Most of what’s produced here gets shipped elsewhere, said Robert Puro of Seedstock, a consultant in sustainable food systems. In most major cities, only 1% to 2% of what’s consumed is produced locally, he said. Developing that shorter supply chain—from local farms to packing and production facilities to retailers—is “the big missing piece in the local food puzzle,” Mr. Puro said.

Enter Los Angeles’s latest experiment: Early in 2015, Ms. Ferrazzani and several small food producers will move to an industrial kitchen at L.A. Prep, a new food production center that will house as many as 50 businesses ready to scale up from home or shared kitchens.

Mott Smith, one of L.A. Prep’s founders, said he sees the facility as a way of expanding the “middle-class in the food processing arena.”

Developed through collaboration with the county over the past two years, the facility will manage health and safety requirements for producers, help them get expedited wholesale licenses and provide services such as food storage, security, trash collection and access to required equipment like range hoods and grease traps.

Mr. Bellomo said historically his agency has been “centered on public health and safety.” But, he said, “If we can add to those objectives innovation—to allow locally based production of foods that are healthy, and of the type and character where there is growing demand—we need to support that.”

Mr. Bellomo said the facility’s focus on easing the transition to wholesale distribution “could very likely become a national model for what we see as a growing trend.”

L.A. Prep will also provide “accelerator” services to help its tenants grow their operations, joining more than 100 food incubators and culinary accelerators that have emerged around the country in the past few years, such as Mess Hall Food Community in Washington, D.C., and Chobani Food Incubator in New York City.

Mr. Smith said he expects companies setting up shop at L.A. Prep to follow varied paths, such as establishing brands and selling their businesses to larger food producers; outgrowing the shared space and moving into their own facilities; or simply staying put.

While her $2,000 monthly rent at L.A. Prep is “probably more than I would want to pay,” Ms. Ferrazzani said, it might save her money in the long run because she won’t have to build her own production facility—something she estimates could cost at least $150,000.

Instead, she’s raising just $25,000 to purchase a commercial pasta dryer that will allow her to make at least 500 pounds of spaghetti, rigatoni and conchiglie each week—more than double what she’s making now.

Write to Erica E. Phillips at

9 Food & Beverage Focused Startup Accelerators

By Chris Hall - October 21, 2014




    With over $350 million in funding raised since the second quarter of 2013, it is safe to say that food and beverage startups have caught the attention of investors around the world. This type of growth in funding begets more startups. As it stands, AngelList shows 2,794 Food and Beverage related startups in their database. The growth in this segment is also seen in the number of food and beverage related startup accelerators and I wanted to put all of these food and beverage startup accelerators in one place.

    I scoured the internet and put a list together of food and beverage focused startup accelerators. I then made the Google Map below so that we can all visualize the parts of the country doubling down on Food & Beverage startups. Click the points on the map below for more details on each accelerator program:


    Food Centricity WEB | TWITTER – Food Centricity is a business accelerator focused on breaking market, business and financial barriers for early and growth stage food companies.Food Centricity connects and streamlines all necessary resources to launch, groom and grow your food business in Southern California and beyond.


    Portland's ‘Foodpreneurs’ get their own accelerator

    Sep 12, 2014, 6:49am PDT

    Courtesy Robert Bart

    The view from Forge Portland's office at 1410 S.W. Morrison St.


    Malia Spencer

    Staff Reporter-Portland Business Journal

    The view from Forge Portland's office at 1410 S.W. Morrison St.

    The view from Forge Portland's office at 1410 S.W. Morrison St.

    Forge Portland, a community-based accelerator and coworking space in downtown Portland, is launching a food accelerator program.

    Applications open Monday. The six-week program is set to launch Oct. 1, said Rob Bart, Forge's founder. The program costs $1,500 and focuses on the business side of launching a food product.

    This is the second bit of news this week for entrepreneurs looking to launch a food business. On Thursday Ecotrust announced plans to build a food manufacturing hub in Portland’s inner Eastside.

    “With the number of conversations that have happened in the past (over support for food entrepreneurs) speaks to the energy in this city for it,” Bart said.

    He noted he has chatted with Ecotrust in the past and would like to work with the group once its facility is running.

    “What they are doing is needed and the building they are talking about plays a role to support the ecosystem,” he said.

    As for Forge:Food, the program will feature curriculum based on lectures from experts in the business as well as mentorship from some of those experts. Program experts include:

    Steve Goebel, assistant dean and director of the business law program at Lewis & Clark College.

    Dave Williams, former CEO of Shorebank Pacific and partner at Reference Capital Management.

    Michel Algazi, CEO of FoodCentricity, a Los Angeles-based food business accelerator.

    The program is aimed at entrepreneurs who already have proof-of-concept or a product to sell and are trying to figure out how to scale.

    The program is designed to help entrepreneurs determine scalability — whether to stay local/regional or go national — figure out a funding path and create a branding story.

    An initial meeting to discuss the program this week saw about 40 people from 20 food producers show up.

    “Talking to food producers, we have a competitive advantage with the foodie culture here and the OSU food center and experts in research to support these young businesses,” Bart said. “Lots of people are starting bit how do we turn that energy into a national brand? Maybe Portland can be the place to start a scalable food business.”

    While the accelerator is running, entrepreneurs can work out of the Forge office space, which currently hosts 22 companies.

    Seedstock Sustainable Agriculture Conference’s Urban Farm Field Trip to Offer First Look at Los Angeles’ Premier Food Business Incubator

    Los Angeles, CA (PRWEB) August 20, 2014

    Attendees of Seedstock’s 3rd Annual Sustainable Agriculture Innovation Conference will get a sneak peak at Los Angeles’ first multi-faceted food production business incubator for local entrepreneurs along with a tour of a blossoming 1.5-acre high school campus urban farming operation in Pasadena and a visit to a shipping container farm in the L.A. Art District.

    The field trip, an excursion into the wide-ranging diversity of sustainable urban agriculture, will kick off Seedstock’s “Reintegrating Ag: Local Food Systems and the Future of Cities” two-day event on Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2014.

    In the Lincoln Heights area of Los Angeles, a former 56,000-square-foot industrial building is undergoing major renovations to ultimately house L.A. Prep, an accelerator for small food producers who have outgrown their startup spaces. The project, which broke ground this summer, will have its first tenants taking occupancy in early 2015.

    “L.A. Prep will deliver space, community and a suite of services for small food business unlike anywhere else in the country,” said L.A. Prep partner and Food Centricity CEO Michel Algazi. “Food Centricity, a business accelerator focused on early and growth stage food companies, will provide business support and other key services to help tenants succeed.”

    The space also will serve as home to L.A. Kitchen, the vision of Robert Egger, founder of D.C. Central Kitchen, a similar nonprofit organization in Washington, D.C. Since its founding 25 years ago, D.C. Kitchen has prepared more than 25 million meals for low-income and at-risk individuals. L.A. Kitchen will serve a wide cross section of programs, emphasizing partnerships that support senior centers, after-school programs and drug treatment facilities.

    Ten miles northeast of Lincoln Heights, in Pasadena, the efforts of a dedicated team of volunteer teachers and students to grow, distribute and cook healthy foods have come to fruition. Three years ago, the John Muir High School agricultural group began converting a portion of their campus into an urban farm. Today, teens can complete community service or internship graduation requirements by enrolling in classes at Muir Ranch. There they grow a variety of flowers, vegetables and fruit that are included in weekly Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) boxes as well as school cafeteria lunches.

    The third stop on the field trip will be to The Container Yard, a mixed-use creative space available for special events, retail sales, filming, and home to one of the few container farms in the United States. Equipped with a hydroponic system, the high-volume crop production unit made from an upcycled shipping container enables the farmers to grow and supply unique agricultural products for local restaurants and farmers markets.

    “The innovation demonstrated by L.A. Prep, Muir Ranch and The Container Yard brings sustainable urban agriculture to a new level,” stated Seedstock co-founder Robert Puro. “They are remarkable examples of responding to societal needs via unfettered creativity. Each offers support, sustenance and hope where once there existed a void.”

    On Day 2 (Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014) of the conference, attendees will convene at the UCLA Anderson School of Management in Los Angeles for a series of panels and breakout sessions that will address the definition, economic impact, role, long-term benefits, challenges, and solutions associated with the development of a vigorous local food system. Program presenters will explore the reintegration of agriculture into cities, the commercial potential of controlled environment agriculture - from hydroponics to aquaponics, policy to bolster local food systems, how local food production can break through the industrial agriculture model, financing local agriculture entrepreneurship and more.

    The deadline to purchase tickets at the “early bird” rate ends Wednesday, September 10. For additional information pertaining to the event, ticket prices, program speakers, and registration, please visit:

    About Seedstock:

    Seedstock is a social venture that fosters the development of sustainability and innovation in agriculture through consulting services and the use of a variety of tools, including the news and information blog Seedstock ( and live events. Seedstock works with government agencies, municipalities and all private sector stakeholders to create a sustainable food ecosystem of innovation, entrepreneurship and investment.

    Read more:,1#ixzz3B3oNRN90 
    Follow us: @virtualstrategy on Twitter | VirtualStrategyMagazine on Facebook

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    Fare Conversations Dinner Gathers Food Sector Innovators at Hub LA

    Since April, Hub LA has been partnering with Whole Foods Market. The partnership has developed out of a mutual appreciation for the role that food plays in building community. And when Whole Foods began bringing delicious meals to our weekly community lunches and monthly wine downs, we saw the effects immediately: more people showing up, livelier conversations, and a tighter community.


    Last week, Whole Foods, Hub LA, and Team Friday used food to bring together another community: the diverse players in the Los Angeles food scene. We hosted a 40-person dinner, Fare Conversations for policy makers, activists, entrepreneurs, chefs, and other innovators working in the food sector. In between courses, presenters shared their unique perspectives on specific issues in the Los Angeles food landscape.

    Whole Foods, Team Friday, and Hub LA put together a program of diverse speakers for Fare Conversations.

    Hub LA was founded upon the theory that individual relationships are the catalyst of meaningful impact and real social change. Fare Conversations provided a microcosm of this practice. It’s our vision for this dinner to be the beginning of a conversation that pivots the food sector in Los Angeles, making space for a more equitable, local, and sustainable ecosystem.

    From the formal presentations and the casual dinner conversations, it became clear that Fare Conversations is part of a larger groundswell of innovation in this sector in Los Angeles. This city is ripe with creative thinking on food-related issues, and Fare Conversations is just the beginning of a much larger dialogue. As Alexis Delwiche of the Los Angeles Food Policy Council wisely noted, food is really a vehicle through which we can discuss so many other pressing social and economic issues such as labor rights, race, class, and antitrust policies.

    Some highlights of the evening:

    -Ari Taymor, chef and co-owner of Alma Restaurant (who was just named Food & Wine Magazine’s Best New Chef 2014), addressed thinking about food “sustainability” in a more comprehensive way not just in terms of sourcing. Taymor mentioned community outreach and education programs as well as thinking about changing restaurant culture. He asked the thought-provoking question: As a restaurant that serves the 1%, how can we use our prestige and press to set an example and to show people that you can have different goals and values?

    -Dr. D’Artagnan Scorza, Executive Director of the Social Justice Learning Institute, brought up the issue of equity. He spoke about the need to close up disparities and meet people where their needs are, which means teaching people how to grow food for themselves and eating that food in a healthy way that still honors their culture and heritage.

    Dr. D'Artagnan Scorza presents at Fare Conversations

    Dr. D’Artagnan Scorza presents at Fare Conversations

    -Michel Algazi of Fine Foods Group and Food Centricity is creating the US’s first food incubator, helping to expose entrepreneurs to the resources that are available to them. His vision for the incubator, which will open in January 2015 in Lincoln Heights, will allow food makers small in size to get the resources that larger food companies have.

    Michel Algazi presents at Fare Conversations

    Michel Algazi presents at Fare Conversations

    It was inspiring to see the very different lenses through which our speakers and dinner guests think about food issues in Southern California (and beyond) and even more so to see how these perspectives, when interacting, can reveal new solutions for systemic progress. This conversation was just the beginning, and we’re looking forward to tracking the growth and movement in this sphere as the private sector, nonprofits, and local government to move from Fare Conversations to fare collaborations.

    - See more at:

    Activist Robert Egger's SoCal Return


    Activist Robert Egger's SoCal Return

    by Jessica Ritz

    on April 25, 2014 11:42 AM

    After having "lived long and hard in D.C.," food activist Robert Egger is reconnecting with his Southern California roots. But that doesn't mean he's slowing down. Quite the contrary.

    Referencing a certain Seinfeld episode, Egger, a very personable contrarian, explains, "I always say we practice the Seinfeld model. Everything charity did, I did the opposite." At D.C. Central Kitchen, which he founded 25 years ago after a long stint running nightclubs (the band at Egger's D.C. going away tribute party included members of Fugazi, The Cramps, and Thievery Corporation), Egger irreverently -- yet successfully -- created job-training and food access programs using mostly donated surplus food to serve millions of meals to many thousands of residents. And more importantly, he created templates that are replicable in other cities, such as the kitchens that have been established in Seattle, Portland, Phoenix, and Chicago. So, next up: L.A.

    Armed with the AARP's first million-dollar startup grant, as well as in partnership with St. Vincent Meals on Wheels, Egger is officially launching L.A. Kitchen as part of a sprawling 56,000 square-foot industrial brick building on Avenue 26 in Lincoln Heights that's about to be transformed into the L.A. Prep food complex. Trim and charismatic, Egger could run "with the hipsters in Echo Park," but the 55-year-old Egger and his wife have settled in quieter Mount Washington while he focuses his latest food activism efforts on seniors and integrating his programs with broader issues related to aging in America.

    As part of a military family, he grew up Chula Vista and Capistrano Beach, and remembers his easygoing years spent in Anaheim when the "Tragic Kingdom" felt like an extension of the surrounding area's suburban backyards. These days he's an in-demand speaker at nonprofit management, social entrepreneurship, and community activism conferences around the world.

    Egger has joined forces with developers Mott Smith and Brian Albert of Civic Enterprise to be the anchor tenant in L.A. Prep, a facility with 49 commercial kitchens. Food Centricity, a "business accelerator," will also work with L.A. Prep's artisanal food and drink producer tenants, and Civic Enterprise has collaborated with the L.A. County Department of Public Health in order to better position small-scale food entrepreneurs' products in the marketplace vis-à-vis full code compliance.

    On Thursday, May 1 at 7:00 p.m., the team is hosting a "Demo-cation" event at the space at 230 W. Avenue 26. Shlemmer Algaze Associates will helm the overall renovation design, with FE Design on board for the kitchen components. Construction is scheduled to be completed early next year.

    Egger met up on Avenue 26 to talk about his plans for what he calls "the third variation of my career." He is a man of many opinions, but here are 10 points culled from our conversation.

    1. Los Angeles is prime territory for his non- and for-profit community development model, because it's "where the future comes to happen."

    You get the food, you get the people, you get the media. I love to tell people that L.A. is where the future comes to happen. It's a creative economy here. People are prone to believe. If you can make it happen, right on.

    2. Outdated federal programs explain a lot of what winds up in the mouths of elderly and poor Americans.

    If you look at what really drives food in America it's the federal reimbursement. School food, senior meals, prison meals, SNAP. It's all federal money. Ergo, to get reimbursement for Meals on Wheels, there's certain nutritional content of the meals. This was all drawn up by the people who want you to buy their pre-packed meals, or their meat, or their dairy. It's the kind of fiction of the nutritional guidelines.

    3. "Charity food" doesn't need to look, feel, and taste the way it typically does.

    The problem is the plate. The institutional plate you see where the big piece of meat goes here with the other stuff around it -- that's the problem. The plate is driving our entire structure, so if you get rid of the plate, you're free. So what we're looking at is kind of a bento box model that says, here's how we'll spread the protein out. So instead of a bad piece of chicken, we'll do lots of alternative proteins throughout.

    Right now [federal reimbursement programs] contract with what is called the "American menu," which is in effect white people food. I anticipate in 5 - 10 years a huge demographic up-tick in seniors who want vegetarian and vegan meals because they want to be healthier. I see our future as people who are going to want locally sourced, ethnically diverse, nutritionally dense snacks and meals. I look at the food I can get for free or very low cost. If you go to Café Gratitude or Tender Greens, I can produce that meal for poor people. That's what's exciting. I want to take the food truck culture. Between the labor, and the availability of the food here, I can do anything any restaurant can do for literally nothing.

    4. Keeping seniors engaged and intergenerational exchange are essential to wider social and economic well-being, and this is a great place to encourage it.

    An economic principal that's key is in every city in America is that older people need to stay home, and be as independent as possible, and be productive as long as possible. And that's volunteerism. I think intergenerational [interaction] is a huge part. These are trends of the future. Let's do this now, let's lead here in L.A.

    5. The current foodie culture is problematic.

    I find the food culture wildly indulgent and somewhat over the top. I wrote a blog piece[asking], Does posting pictures of your food send the wrong message? There are a lot of people around the world who don't have a lot of food. It makes Americans seem oblivious and blind to how other people live. We're so wrapped up in the excitement of our lives and our luck.

    Dudes, I get it. Have fun. But be a little more humble in your fortune. Boy, did I hit a nerve on that one.

    6. Childhood anti-hunger campaigns are worthy, but also help reinforce the charity and food policy status quo.

    It's easier to raise money for kids. Historically, I run a successful program, but for crack addicts, prostitutes, and the mentally ill. All hunger is wrong. You're just picking the lowest fruit, and making it four times harder for the rest of us. Plus strategically kids don't vote. Seniors vote. You want to really change food policy, talk to seniors.

    But we did one of the most successful cooked from scratch school meal programs in America. We're doing 5,000 of those a day. What we were able to show is you can produce a locally sourced, cooked from scratch meal -- and kids would eat it. There is a striking similarity between what you do for kids, and what you do for seniors.

    7. Egger works from an intensely grassroots up model, challenging assumptions at every level.

    I tend to kind of reject normal metrics. In my business, people judge success by how many pounds you move, or how many agencies you serve. And it's like, just because I moved a bunch of food, doesn't mean it was good food? I could've poisoned people!

    I was so discouraged when I came in. I first proposed this idea in the 1980s. I didn't want to do it. I ran nightclubs. I said to some of the charities I knew were serving people, "I know you do it well, but here's a way you can feed more people for less money, and if you do job training, restaurants need workers." It was always trying to challenge the status quo but in a way that offered an alternative.

    8. Produce should be better processed to maximize use and nutritional value, and minimize waste.

    This is about processing. Chopping, dicing, pureeing, and then freezing or refrigerating, or using immediately. With the typical model now, [fresh food] would either go from a farm, to a food bank, to a pantry, and to a home. You have cascading decay all the way down. That takes more than three days, you're starting to lose a huge amount of your stuff. You have a lot of excitement about fruits and vegetables coming into the system, but the system was geared towards stable, non-perishable food. The system doesn't work well for produce. All it can do it shove it out the door as quick as it can. Look, if you process it, you have the ability to stabilize it.

    9. Food programs for seniors need to get smarter about present, and prepare for the near future.

    We're struggling to feed people, and less than 10% [of eligible seniors are taking advantage] of Meals on Wheels or SNAP benefits. Right around the corner is an army of Baby Boomers who will be wildly ready to take advantage of food stamps and Meals on Wheels, but will be wildly demanding. And meanwhile, you have a system of the food banks that rely on donating products, which is lost profit. So, L.A. Kitchen is coming along, saying, this is a smarter way to look at this.

    10. Celebrity Chef José Andrés is one of his longest supporters.

    José and I have been friends for 20 years. A friend of mine, Rob Wilder, who's now his partner [in ThinkFoodGroup] but at the time was his boss, had just hired this young Spanish dude. And he was like, "Hey man, you got to meet our new chef." So, José came down, and for some reason he just loved what we did, and we've been friends ever since.

    He showed up at my office one day, and announced his plans for World Central Kitchen. I said, "I have D.C. and you have the rest of the world!" That's very José. It's rare that when he gets media attention, he doesn't turn it around and talk about D.C. Kitchen. He's been very generous. He's done everything he can do. We've always had the support of the chefs.

    L.A. Prep Project in Lincoln Heights Secures Financing

    Thursday, April 17, 2014 As of 11:05 AM EDT

    The Wall Street Journal 

    L.A. Prep Project in Lincoln Heights Secures Financing

      LOS ANGELES--(BUSINESS WIRE)--April 17, 2014-- 

      U.S. Bank, Capital Impact Partners, Los Angeles Development Fund, UrbanAmerica and Civic Enterprise Development have closed on financing for the $17.5 million acquisition and renovation of industrial space in Los Angeles' Lincoln Heights neighborhood. The 56,000-square-foot building will become L.A. Prep, a multi-faceted food production business incubator for local entrepreneurs, and home to the nonprofit L.A. Kitchen.

      Most of the space operates as an accelerator for small food producers who have outgrown their startup spaces. L.A. Prep partner and co-founder Food Centricity, a business accelerator focused on early and growth stage food companies, will provide business support and other key services to help tenants succeed. Food Centricity CEO Michel Algazi said, "L.A. Prep will deliver space, community and a suite of services for small food business unlike anywhere else in the country."

      L.A. Kitchen is a nonprofit/social enterprise that will collect or purchase surplus fruits and produce from farms and wholesale companies in the region. These products will fuel a 15-week, culinary arts job training program, which will prepare at-risk foster youth and older adults transitioning out of incarceration for jobs in the culinary field, helping reduce systemic patterns and become productive members of the Los Angeles community. Along with staff and volunteers, trainees will help produce thousands of snacks and ethnically diverse meals every day, which will be distributed for free to nonprofit partners or sold through contracts. L.A. Kitchen will serve a wide cross section of programs, but will emphasize partnerships that support senior centers, after-school programs or drug treatment facilities.

      L.A. Kitchen is the vision of Robert Egger, the founder of D.C. Central Kitchen, a similar nonprofit organization in Washington, D.C. that has prepared more than 25 million meals for low-income and at-risk individuals since its founding 25 years ago.

      "L.A. Kitchen will help provide a basic need, food, to our community members in need, and in doing so, we'll be able to help at-risk individuals learn and create opportunities for themselves," said Egger. "In the United States, approximately 40% of edible food goes to waste, costing more than $165 billion each year. In Los Angeles alone, around 18 million pounds of food are disposed of every day."

      To make the project possible, U.S. Bank committed more than $5.1 million in New Markets Tax Credit equity through its community development subsidiary, U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation. Capital Impact Partners, as part of the California Fresh Works Fund and in partnership with The California Endowment, Genesis L.A. and Raza Development Fund, provided $11 million in leverage debt in the NMTC structure. The Los Angeles Development Fund and UrbanAmerica, through its community development entity, UA LLC, together contributed a $16 million New Markets Tax Credit allocation to the project.

      "We're pleased to play a role in turning this innovative and highly-anticipated project into a reality," said Sean Foley, president of U.S. Bank in Southern California. "Given the growth of small food businesses locally and the lasting success of Egger's D.C. Central Kitchen, L.A. Prep will have a wide-ranging, positive impact on our community for many years to come."

      "This project blends job creation; value added food production, and distribution of fresh healthy prepared foods to senior facilities," said Scott Sporte, chief lending officer at Capital Impact Partners. "It illustrates our flexibility for projects with high impact potential and we're very proud to be part of it and expand our impact in the communities that matter most to us."

      L.A. Prep will break ground this summer, with first tenants occupying in early 2015. Civic Enterprise Development (CE), founded by Mott Smith and Brian Albert with a focus on urban infill developments in emerging communities in Southern California, will renovate the facility into a state-of-the-art food production center.

      "L.A. Prep is a unique development project that will go a long way toward rejuvenating the historic Lincoln Heights neighborhood," said Albert of CE. "As a developer in an urban area like Northeast Los Angeles, it's critical to be able to look at space for what it could become tomorrow, rather than what it was yesterday."

      Smith and Albert have a longstanding commitment to small business, neighborhood-scaled investment and creative enterprises. "We'd love to see food do for Lincoln Heights today what music did for the Sunset Strip in the 1960s," said Smith of CE.

      L.A. Prep is the culmination of a two-year effort between the development team and the L.A. County Department of Public Health, which oversees food regulation in the County and City of Los Angeles. "With the rapid growth of small food business, we want to offer solutions that support innovation and our entrepreneurial community, while protecting public health. We are pleased to work with L.A. Prep and Civic Enterprise to help launch this exciting program," said Angelo Bellomo, director of environmental health at the L.A. County Department of Public Health.

      About Civic Enterprise Development LLC

      Civic Enterprise is an L.A.-based urban infill developer focusing on emerging communities in Southern California.

      About Food Centricity

      Food Centricity is a business accelerator focused on breaking market, business and financial barriers for early and growth stage food companies. It connects and streamlines all necessary resources to launch, groom and grow food businesses in Southern California and beyond. Food Centricity also powers The Fine Foods Group, a community of over one thousand food makers in Southern California. Learn more at

      About L.A. Kitchen

      L.A. Kitchen is new, but built upon the proven work of Robert Egger, who founded the nationally recognized DC Central Kitchen in 1989. The DC Kitchen is now a $12M, self-sustaining, social enterprise that has prepared over 29 million meals and helped 1,000 men and women gain full time employment.

      About Capital Impact Partners

      Capital Impact Partners (formerly known as NCB Capital Impact), is a leader in financial and social innovation for communities. A nonprofit organization and Community Development Financial Institution, we bring our roots in cooperative development, diverse network of partners and problem solving know-how to connect communities to capital and capabilities that together create social change. Learn more at

      About Los Angeles Development Fund

      The Los Angeles Development Fund (LADF) is a California non-profit corporation established by the City of Los Angeles in September 2006 to manage its New Markets Tax Credit program. LADF is certified by the U.S. Treasury Department's Community Development Financial Institutions Fund as a Community Development Entity and has been awarded $125 million in allocation. LADF uses its allocation to support qualified projects within the City of Los Angeles. For more information please visit

      About UrbanAmerica

      UrbanAmerica (UrbanAmerica Principals III, LLC) a minority-controlled real estate investment advisor, launched in 1998, was one of the first investment advisors to focus on developing and acquiring properties in America's urban markets and low-to-moderate income (LMI) areas. As a pioneer in urban investing, UrbanAmerica addressed the lack of access to capital in LMI communities and in areas of diversity nationwide, where a dearth of goods and services existed and where unemployment was high. To date, UrbanAmerica has over $1 billion in equity under management across two private equity investment funds. In addition, through the NMTC program, as a Community Development Entity, UrbanAmerica continues to invest capital in these areas bringing schools, health care centers, retail, affordable housing, community services and jobs to LMI communities nationwide. For more information please visit

      About U.S. Bank in Los Angeles

      U.S. Bank has 222 branches and employs more than 2,700 people in greater Los Angeles. The number of U.S. Bank employees in the market has more than doubled since 2008, and the same is true across California where the number of U.S. Bank employees jumped from 3,500 in 2008 to 7,000 today.

      U.S. Bancorp (NYSE: USB), with $371 billion in assets as of March 31, 2014, is the parent company of U.S. Bank National Association, the 5th largest commercial bank in the United States. The Company operates 3,083 banking offices in 25 states and 4,878 ATMs and provides a comprehensive line of banking, brokerage, insurance, investment, mortgage, trust and payment services products to consumers, businesses and institutions. Visit U.S. Bancorp on the web at