UGo Bars is a risk, a big one. We are a small business in the middle of the country, 3,000 miles away from progressive food scenes on the coasts. And yet, we are making an attempt at revolutionizing the state of the food industry on a national level. The company began 3 years ago out of a need I call survival.
As an athlete, always on the road, I saw first hand the food deserts across the country. I spent a lot of time in urban centers, while also surrounded by farms and mountains. Ironically, the landscape meant almost nothing to the sheer distance between myself and a healthy snack. Our team travelled by bus, so unless the food was within walking distance or I had time to take a city bus, often not available where we stayed, I was resigned to fast food, vending machines, gas stations, or what I brought from home. Looking back, I most certainly had an undiagnosed gluten allergy for most of my adult life. After too many preservative-laden snack bars, I also most certainly messed up my flora, and incapacitated my digestion. I chalked it up, as too many people often do, to the fact that stomach aches on a daily basis are normal.
Let's compare and contrast this to the roughly 50% of America that lives in low-income households, without reliable transportation, access to grocery stores, fresh produce or protein. Often its not misinformation as much as simple lack of means to reach food other than that of the gas station on the corner. This to me, is simply unacceptable. That is what drives me. I could fight back by pure and simple policy change at the Federal Level, but that area has been volatile since the Food Emergency in the 1980's. In general, Food Assistance programs are run, often, by private organizations, on very low budgets, funded primarily by sugary food companies and Corporate food waste. I almost got lost in this dark place of how we don't even feed our own children, with no means to feed themselves.
I, however, have taken matters into my own hands, and feel so much hope that on most days, I am simply bursting with it. The concept of UGo Bars was to pack as much possible nutrition into a snack bar as possible, using only whole, ethically-sourced foods. I have been told many times that my profit margins would be better if I used less chia, or less organic, or less of certain nuts and fruit. But, my end goal is not margins, it is nutrition that people will actually eat. I will not replace the nuts with low quality, because I want the highest antioxidant count, and best possible product. And I need it to taste delicious. I am told that I will eventually need to have someone else make my product, or will need a machine to do it. But, UGo has brought on a staff so invested in the soul of the product that we will grow with the demand every step of the way.
I want to share a few links on some stories that inspire me, and hopefully you, but not just as emotional inspiration. I firmly believe that if these concepts catch on throughout the country, we can together make a real difference in food insecurity and health-destroying misinformation. The Patachou Foundation was created by Martha Hoover as a Non-Profit from her restaurants to provide locally grown and prepared foods for the after-school programs in Indianapolis, a city where 86% of public school children face food insecurity. If you want to experience the purest joy, simply partake in one of their many after-school program days. I am still radiating from the children's' genuine hugs.
Another story that amazes me is the of City Greens Market, in St Louis. This non-profit grew out of the basement of a church, begun by a group of woman, including herself. Much of their neighborhood had moved up from the farm- & produce-rich South to this urban neighborhood. Most days of the week, the families ate from the gas station. The woman's niece developed Crohn's disease from "too many Red Hot Cheetos for dinner." With the nearest grocery 2 bus exchanges away, the women took matters in to their own hands.
A major fallacy is that every poor neighborhood has a food bank or soup kitchen, and that food stamps take care of immediate need. The truth is that the soup kitchens started when churches, and the like, had the means or sheer willpower to create a space. This leaves 99% of places with no access to food assistance programs. States like Indiana have the option to ban anyone with a drug charge (even from 25 years ago) from receiving Food Stamps. Some areas ban LEGAL Immigrants from Food Assistance. The Bottom Line is this: This lies in our hands as civilians, but in many places this has already begun, we simply need to join what is already working.
THE MOMENTUM IS GREAT AND EVERY DAY BRINGS MORE HOPE.