REAP Food Group brings showcase for food entrepeneurs of color to Forward Fest

Madame Chu, Loveland Acres and Mentoring Positives are among the vendors scheduled to be at the Local Food Entrepreneur Showcase.

Forward Fest kicked off at the beginning of this week and one of the events on Wednesday, August 23 from 4pm to 6pm will be an exciting opportunity for anyone trying to get out and explore diversity in Madison’s food scene before the summer is over.

REAP Food Group will host a Local Food Entrepreneur Showcase to highlight food entrepreneurs of color from around the Madison area. The inspiration behind making space for food entrepreneurs of color to network comes from REAP’s collaborations with Roots4Change, a Latina-led organization that helped reveal the necessity for more connection between food producers, food providers, and the community. 

Phil Kauth, Executive Director at REAP, said the idea really came together when a donor offered money to work toward the goal of platforming food entrepreneurs of color; the only thing left to do was find the opportunity.      

“A person who used to work at REAP came to us and said, ‘Hey, I’m on the board at this festival called Forward Fest, and we’ve never had any event around food entrepreneurs. Would REAP be interested in holding something during Forward Fest?’” Kauth told Madison365. “I thought, that’s incredible because we have this funding from a donor to do that. It all just came together to have it during Forward Fest, and to get the word out about it and really kind of celebrate food entrepreneurs in the area. We have quite an eclectic group.”

Entrepreneurs from across the food world will be present from farmers, to caterers, to chefs, to businesses that make prepackaged food and snacks. Some recognizable names such as Cafe Costa Rica, the Farley Center, and Mentoring Positives are on the list of participants, but Kauth is mostly excited about getting people out to check out all the food entrepreneurs who may not be as well known in Madison just yet. 

He said those represented will be “a good portion of the business owners we’ve had previous experience with and relationships with, but some of them are kind of new and upcoming that people need to know. I was just throwing out emails to people,” said Kauth, also mentioning the interest of local grocers and hopeful food providers like Gooh Grocery who will be able to use the opportunity to connect with farmers and food producers of color. 

“It’s showing people the options that are out there. Not just, ‘I get my food at Pick ‘n Save,’ or ‘I get my food at Woodmans’ or ‘I go to the local fast food joint.’ What else is out there that people can support like your local caterer, local grocer, or local farmer and build that curiosity of what people are doing.” 

Kauth also drove home the importance of investing in local agriculture and food production, as it allows those businesses to grow in scale and capacity to further provide for the city in a mutually beneficial way. On top of that, investing in your local agriculture can also help ensure a diversity of food options, driving more engagement with the variety of interesting produce grown at a local level.

“Know who your farmer is, because once you know who your farmer is, you build that connection with them and you’re supporting them,” Kauth said in closing. “The money that goes directly back to those local farms just trickles throughout. As they expand, they can hire more people, maybe they can advertise more, and they can get the word out about what they do. It gives people more options as well as a consumer.”

The event will feature a demo on aryuvedic seasonal eating presented by Kosa Spa and a tortilla making demonstration by Tortilla Los Angeles.

To learn more about this event, see the full list of vendors and get tickets, visit the Forward Fest site here.