$900,000 FCLF Financing - 2 loans
New construction of 6,000 sq ft urban aquaponics farm and commercial kitchen
Job training provided for 250 annually
“We are very grateful for the support we have received through the Florida Community Loan Fund. This important partnership makes it possible for FreshMinistries to move ahead with our aquaponics initiative to promote good health and economic development in core-city Jacksonville. FCLF does important work, transforming our community in many positive ways.” – The Rev. Dr. Robert V. Lee III, CEO and Founder, FreshMinistries, Inc.
FreshMinistries has focused on enhancing quality of life and eradicating poverty in Jacksonville’s impoverished and crime-ridden neighborhoods since 1989. Current programs such as Fresh Future and Fresh Path help at-risk youth (including court-involved youth) gain life skills and job placement. At the Weaver Center for Community Outreach, FreshMinistries offers mentoring and tutoring for students, and job training for both students and adults. Across all of their programs, FreshMinistries emphasizes the importance of mental and physical well-being, including nutrition and healthy eating.
With financing from Florida Community Loan Fund, FreshMinistries will build an urban aquaponics farm and construct a commercial kitchen at its Weaver Center facility, increasing access to fresh food in this USDA food desert. The aquaponics farm will include 6,000 square feet of enclosed greenhouse space that combines raising fish and hydroponically grown produce. The aquaponics farm and commercial kitchen will continue to be part of job training for 150 youth and 100 adults annually. Both the farm and commercial kitchen are an important component of Fresh Ministries’ education and job training programs, teaching youth and area families the importance of fresh foods, including how to raise fresh, healthy food in an urban environment and entrepreneurial culinary skills. Educating individuals on the benefits of fresh produce will also have an impact on health in this area designated as “Health Zone One,” where 40% of children struggle in poverty, 100% of residents live in distressed neighborhoods, and mortality rates are high for heart disease and diabetes.
Fish and produce from the aquaponics farm will be marketed to area residents, restaurants, grocers, and caterers. Proceeds from these sales will be reinvested into Fresh Ministries’ outreach programs. The facility can produce up to 4,000 pounds of tilapia annually and up to 240,000 heads of lettuce or other produce.
For more information visit Fresh Ministries website, www.freshministries.org.
Pictured above, FreshMinistries’ Weaver Center for Community Outreach. Below, sample vegetation grown using hydroponic methods.