Santa Cruz Social Ventures Get A Boost

By Jondi Gumz
Santa Cruz Sentinel, Calif.


With a masterful pitch, Valeria Miranda and Stacey Smith earned the title of “Game-changer” Wednesday night for their nonprofit startup that plans to launch a food truck specializing in a healthy menu, staffed by men and women released from jail, newly trained by professional chef Rebecca Mastoris.

“They need a transition from jail to employment that puts them in a safe setting,” said Smith.

“Food is healing,” said Miranda. “We’re breaking down stereotypes.”

In a video describing the nonprofit, Food for Change, a woman who spent four years in jail said of her fellow inmates, “They’re not bad people, they’re just people who made bad choices.”

With the title came $2,000 to support Food for Change, which plans a pop-up fundraiser Jan. 29 serving soup with jazz at the Food Lounge, 1001 Center St.

Runnerup Ned LeBlond won the “Catalyst” award and $1,000 for Zealful Homes, pitched as a matching service for renters and homeowners based on their needs and preferences, helping owners burdened by property taxes and filling unused rooms with compatible individuals.

The three are the first to graduate from a three-month accelerator program created by The Inspiring Enterprise, a new nonprofit founded by Janneke Lang, a UC Santa Cruz alum whose goal is to bring social innovation and change to Santa Cruz County.

Robert Singleton, co-founder of Civinomics and a board member of The Inspiring Enterprise, said he envisions Santa Cruz as the capital for social entrepreneurship.

Miranda and Smith said they aim to raise $75,000 to outfit a food truck, provide six months of training to four people and serve healthy quick lunch items in downtown Santa Cruz. They plan to train six people in the second round and 20 in the third round, with capacity to serve 400 meals a day.

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