Education News NYC

NYU Launches Online Resource for Food Entrepreneurs

The NYU Food Environment and Policy Research Coalition and Food & Society at the Aspen Institute are launching Open Access NYC, a free portal with local resources to help food entrepreneurs establish and grow their businesses. The digital one-stop-shop provides current and aspiring small business owners with guidance on business planning, securing funding, obtaining permits and licenses, and sustainable growth.

New York City, known for its vibrant and global culinary scene, is home to more than 40,000 food-related businesses—the majority of which are small and independently owned—and the industry supports an estimated half a million jobs. While the food sector is a vital part of the city’s economy, many entrepreneurs experience financial hardship and struggle to navigate the complex regulatory landscape for operating a food business.

Moreover, according to the NYC Mayor’s Office of Food Policy, 79% of the city’s food workers are people of color, including many immigrants—populations that often face barriers to accessing credit and other resources for starting businesses.

“In order to reduce inequalities in nutrition and health, we need to create a more equitable food system,” said Marie Bragg, assistant professor of public health nutrition at the NYU School of Global Public Health and NYU Grossman School of Medicine, director of the NYU Food Environment and Policy Research Coalition, and a 2023 Food & Society Food Leaders Fellow. “Open Access NYC aims to deconstruct historical barriers and advance economic security for New York City’s small business owners in the food sector.”

Open Access NYC is designed to help New Yorkers—including BIPOC entrepreneurs and others from marginalized communities—launch and grow food trucks, restaurants, catering companies, and new food products. The portal directs entrepreneurs to local resources, including loan and grant programs, commercial kitchen spaces, restaurant suppliers, and food-related permits from the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

NYU and the Aspen Institute will host a webinar, open to all interested attendees of any background, to launch Open Access NYC on July 9 from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. ET. Current and aspiring food entrepreneurs can register to learn about the portal’s available resources and are invited to bring questions to a Q+A discussion.

“As a native New Yorker, I have always had a deep connection to the culturally diverse, independently owned food businesses that surround me,” said Zora Hall, director of community engagement at the NYU Food Environment and Policy Research Coalition. “Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, I have had to watch a number of my favorite small businesses struggle. I am thrilled to be a part of a timely initiative that has the potential to strengthen existing New York City gems, while ushering in a new generation of small businesses and empowering food entrepreneurs.”

New York is the fourth city to take part in Food & Society’s Open Access initiative, following successful program launches in Washington, DC, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. The Open Access initiative aims to help food entrepreneurs navigate through and over the many challenges to financing and business ownership. With funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Food & Society created the open-source web code available at no cost to cities and other organizations to launch portals to help food entrepreneurs in their communities.

“New York City is one of the most diverse cities in the country and is home to some of the most iconic and famous restaurants in the world. We wanted to bring Open Access to New York so that more food entrepreneurs could make their mark on the city,” said Corby Kummer, executive director of Food & Society at the Aspen Institute. “It’s been a dream working with Marie, one of our Food Leaders Fellows, and her team to launch Open Access NYC. They have exponentially increased the Open Access initiative’s potential to support small business owners from marginalized backgrounds, and we couldn’t be more thrilled.”