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Weekend edition April 26, 2024 | Katelyn Keenehan

Knoxville organizations band together to boost food equity

More than 20 percent of food-insecure households in Knoxville reported interest in starting a food-related business.

We recently received new information about a million-dollar grant that will help establish a sustainable food system for Knoxville residents and entrepreneurs. See the previous article here.

United Way of Greater Knoxville (UWGK), Knoxville’s Community Development Corporation (KCDC), and Real Good Kitchen Foundation (RGKF) have received nearly $1 million to launch two programs: Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI) and the Knox Good Food Fund.

“This monumental investment will revolutionize our approach to food equity, enhancing the health and well-being of residents across Knoxville,” said Kimberly Pettigrew, UWGK Director of Food Systems. “United Way of Greater Knoxville is committed to building a community-led initiative that strategically deploys resources to address our underserved population’s most pressing challenges. We are excited to embark on this project with supportive and informed partners including KCDC and RGKF.”

She said UWGK applied for the grant after discovering more than 20 percent of food-insecure households reported interest in starting a food-related business. However, hurdles that stood in their way were a lack of business knowledge, connections, and/or lack of capital to launch a company.

The new space will be in the Beaumont neighborhood and allow RGKF to expand its programs, answering residents’ requests for services that enable them to achieve their entrepreneurship dreams and economic mobility. The goal is to establish several new food businesses by the end of the grant term in 2027, increasing access to food and fostering economic opportunities in Knoxville’s vulnerable neighborhoods.

Over the next several years with the grant, RGKF will grow its Food Business Bootcamp and Food Business Incubator Program to focus on improving the viability and sustainability of local food businesses. It will also focus on increasing access to perishable staples and healthy food in food deserts.

“We are excited to partner with UWGK and KCDC to expand our work to bring economic opportunity and good food to Knoxville residents,” said Bailey Foster, Founder and Executive Director of RGKF. “This grant will help us expand our capacity and programs already taking root to bolster food entrepreneurship and support food access in our community.”

The Regional HFFI is a new grant program under the expanded America’s Healthy Food Financing Initiative. Reinvestment Fund awarded the grants after reviewing 55 eligible applications that requested more than $112 million total and selected local entities across the country.

For more information about United Way of Greater Knoxville and its initiatives, visit

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