Redistribute leftover produce or items to families living in food deserts. Many supermarkets or grocery stores throw away old produce that customers no longer wish to buy, but still safe to eat. The business owners can instead redistribute these items in food deserts to those who are usually not able to afford or access these produce to reduce their need to purchase fast food meals.
In many parts of the United States, there is a crisis caused by people having limited access to healthy & affordable food options. This in turn is creating a host of health and social problems. What exactly is a food desert? What causes a food desert? What are the secondary and tertiary problems that are created by a food desert? How can this problem be solved? Who are the leaders helping to address this crisis?
In this interview series, called “Food Deserts: How We Are Helping To Address The Problem of People Having Limited Access to Healthy & Affordable Food Options” we are talking to business leaders and non-profit leaders who can share the initiatives they are leading to address and solve the problem of food deserts.
As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Tximista Lizarazu.
Tximista Lizarazu is the CEO and co-founder of Fraîche, a Brooklyn based food technology company committed to making fresh and healthy food more accessible. Originally from France, Tximista has long held a passion for the food industry and hopes Fraîche will transform how we think about convenience and access to sustainable and nutritious food. Fraîche operates their core product, the Fraîche Smart Fridge, and its corresponding meals, in multiple locations throughout New York City.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
I have always been passionate about food, and when I met the Founder of Le Pain Quotidien, I started to become passionate about the food industry. Learned from him, before starting Fraiche, seeing so many opportunities to improve the food system in terms of accessibility, education, quality, experience… and combined all that into Fraiche.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
It took me basically 3 days to decide to move to NYC and leave everything behind. It’s been 5 years now.
Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?
Aside from when I decided to found Fraîche, I would say that the most important times were when I stayed particularly open to opportunities, learning new things and not worried about failure.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Benjamin Chemla, has been a mentor for Paul (my business partner) & I. We’ve also received support from a community of amazing young entrepreneurs who have been in our shoes many times and always have been available for us when most needed. Help and support can’t be resumed in one story, this is a continued support that is needed when you are an entrepreneur. Being surrounded by inspiring people, with crazy dreams is priority.
You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
Perseverance, ability to listen to and empathize with others and curiosity. We are always seeking more knowledge on what our customers seek and how we can be better serving them and our communities.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Never give up. Fraiche being pretty young we already have faced many challenges through the pandemic and office closures. We feel that being able to adapt as well as believing in your ideas and staying resilient is key.
Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about Food Deserts. I know this is intuitive to you, but it will be helpful to expressly articulate this for our readers. Can you please tell us what exactly a food desert is? Does it mean there are places in the US where you can’t buy food?
A food desert is an area where people do not have access to healthy and affordable foods. These areas are not places where people cannot buy food, but rather places that are difficult to buy because of the lack of transportation, absence of grocery stores or poverty. Those who live in food deserts are typically more than a mile away from a supermarket in urban areas or more than ten miles away in rural areas and do not own a car.
Can you help explain a few of the social consequences that arise from food deserts? What are the secondary and tertiary problems that are created by a food desert?
- Health issues: lack of access to healthy and affordable food forces people to eat unhealthy foods that contain high levels of fat, sugar, and sodium. This leads to the development of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular issues, and obesity. These issues used to be more common among the older generation, but more adolescents now are being diagnosed with these health problems because of unhealthy eating habits.
- Financial struggles: those who live in food deserts are more likely to spend more money on medical bills because of health issues related to unhealthy diets. The more money they put into fixing these problems, the more likely they are to turn to cheap, fast foods rather than healthier, more expensive produce. This turns into a loop where those in food deserts will always be eating unhealthy meals because they can’t afford healthier meals.
Where did this crisis come from? Can you briefly explain to our readers what brought us to this place?
Food deserts are commonly found in black and brown communities and low-income areas. Since a majority of them live in poverty, they are not able to afford the organic, fresh produce. Additionally, because many of the residents in the food desert do not own a car, and there might be a lack of public transportation, they are forced to rely on fast food or packaged foods for a living, causing various health problems.
Can you describe to our readers how your work is making an impact to address this crisis? Can you share some of the initiatives you are leading to help correct this issue?
We’ve made our smart fridge available to the public and continue to stock it with fresh and healthy, ready-to-eat meals 24/7. We also donate our unconsumed meals to our partner, Replate, who distributes them to shelters and charities throughout New York City.
Can you share something about your work that makes you most proud? Is there a particular story or incident that you found most uplifting?
We’ve been giving away food to people in need with our partner Rethink Food since inception. Food waste being a massive social and environmental issue in the US, we’re happy not to be part of this massive problem (50% of the food produced is wasted in the US). There is no waste at Fraiche.
In your opinion, what should other business and civic leaders do to further address these problems? Can you please share your “5 Things That Need To Be Done To Address The Problem of People Having Limited Access to Healthy & Affordable Food Options”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
- Increase the awareness of those living in food deserts
Many people don’t realize that they live in food deserts because eating fast food or packaged meals has become a habit or a tradition for them. Since many food deserts are under-reported by USDA, it is important for those living in food deserts to acknowledge the problem and take active steps to fix it.
2. Redistribute leftover produce or items to families living in food deserts
Many supermarkets or grocery stores throw away old produce that customers no longer wish to buy, but still safe to eat. The business owners can instead redistribute these items in food deserts to those who are usually not able to afford or access these produce to reduce their need to purchase fast food meals.
3. Grow your own produce and fruits
For those who live in food deserts and do not own a car, it would be more convenient to grow vegetables and fruits at home rather than spending hours commuting to the nearest grocery store. It would make it easier for them since it will always be available to them, and if they have extras, it can always be sold to the community.
4. Food drive
Many community centers have been giving out food to those in need during the pandemic where the foods come right from the farms. This can be a source of getting fresh produce for those who don’t usually travel far and perform most of its activities within the community.
5. Limit the number of fast food restaurants
Restricting the number of fast food restaurants within a neighborhood would help turn down the number of people eating fast food. When there is not a fast food restaurant available, people are more likely to purchase something else to eat, whether it is having a balanced meal or buying groceries and cooking at home.
Are there other leaders or organizations who have done good work to address food deserts? Can you tell us what they have done? What specifically impresses you about their work? Perhaps we can reach out to them to include them in this series.
The Green Cart that operates in NYC is a good way to address food deserts. Residents who grow their own produce can apply for a mobile food vending license and a Green Cart permit to sell fresh produce in designated areas in NYC. This is a convenient way to sell fresh produce to those living in food deserts because there is not a cost to rent or buy a store front, and can be set up more easily. Without having to worry about the cost of renting or buying a business in NYC, it makes it much easier for vendors to apply for the permit and start selling in food deserts where there is an actual need for fresh produce.
Naked Juice and Wholesome Wave: partnered up to donate food to communities living in food deserts by having people take selfies with fresh produce and posting on social media. This is an easy way to get people to do something good that will benefit the community, and at the same time brings the brand name out there, beneficial for both the business and the community.
If you had the power to influence legislation, are there laws that you would like to see introduced that might help you in your work?
- Rent reduction/Tax exempt: for areas with high rents like NYC, imposing new regulations that lowers the financial burden of those looking to start their own businesses can be useful in bringing more businesses in food desert communities. The rent reduction or tax exemption should be directed to the available space in food deserts to encourage the vendors to settle there.
- Laws limiting the types of restaurants that are allowed in each neighborhood, this would limit the availability of unhealthy meals that are already prepared, and force the residents in the community to turn to healthier options.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
There is so much to do in the food space, educating people on how to eat it and consume better. So many people don’t have access to quality food or are not aware of their own health and wellness. We would love to use Fraîche as a platform for all to educate the public about increasing access to nutritious food and local produce.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Dan Barber, so much to learn from that breakfast on how to have a positive impact in the food space. Or Roger Federer as the most inspiring athlete of this century.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Our blog https://blog.fraiche.io/
Our linkedin and Txim’s linkedin:
This was very meaningful, thank you so much, and we wish you only continued success.