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November 9, 2023

Freshlist plans expansion with federal grant

The local food hub was one of 33 recipients nationwide

by Kristen Wile

Freshlist headquarters in the Belmont neighborhood of Charlotte. Photo courtesy

Freshlist, a local food hub that connects area farmers with restaurants and consumers, was named a grant recipient by the USDA last week, one of 33 businesses across the country to earn the grant. The Local Food Promotion Program is meant to help grow businesses that “develop, coordinate, and expand local and regional food business enterprises and increase access to locally and regionally produced agricultural products.” This year, a total of more than $14 million was approved. Freshlist will be awarded nearly $750,000 to fund expansion plans.

Those expansion plans, Freshlist founder and CEO Jesse Leadbetter says, include increasing warehouse space, adding a larger refrigerated truck to the fleet, and increasing staff. The business is currently based out of the Belmont neighborhood of Charlotte, but only occupies about half of its current building. When it was founded, Freshlist was meant to be a technology that helped restaurant owners and chefs order directly from local farmers. However, Leadbetter realized there was a gap in the supply chain, and Freshlist became that link between farms and restaurant tables, securing and delivering those goods. Today, they work with nonprofits and home consumers, too.

“We’ve really just focused on what is good for the farmer and how can we make sure we’re either creating new markets or helping access new market opportunities, so that whenever a farm comes to us with stuff they’ve grown, we’ve got a place to sell it and sell it in a way where they’re getting paid full price,” Leadbetter says.

Once Freshlist has a larger capability for delivery and more storage space, Leadbetter says they’ll hope to expand their ability to deliver local produce to Charlotteans at home.

“Our direct consumer business is pretty limited and exclusive right now in terms of delivery radius, but we want to be able to invest some more time and energy into that,” he says. “I think there’s still a strong, strong desire for people to be able to access the kind of produce that you can only get at a farmer’s market currently.”

For Leadbetter, programs like the Local Food Promotion Program can fuel much-needed growth for small businesses looking to support area farmers, and he hopes more local and federal funding grants become available as agencies see the impact the funds can have for small-scale agriculture.

“We’re excited to showcase what we’re able to do when relatively small investments are made into the type of work that we’re doing,” he says.

This story has been unlocked by Freshlist. Paying to unlock a story offsets the subscription revenue we rely on to continue telling Charlotte’s food stories. Want to unlock a news story? Reach out to us.

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