Source: UNIV OF CALIFORNIA submitted to
Sponsoring Institution
National Institute of Food and Agriculture
Project Status
Funding Source
Reporting Frequency
Accession No.
Grant No.
Project No.
Proposal No.
Multistate No.
Program Code
Project Start Date
Jan 15, 2024
Project End Date
Jan 14, 2026
Grant Year
Project Director
Schmidt, L.
Recipient Organization
Performing Department
Philip R Lee Institute for Health Policy
Non Technical Summary
This project will increase food and nutrition security by expanding the capacity of small businesses serving food deserts to produce more fresh food. Thirty-four million Americans are food-insecure and 13.5-23.5 million live in low-income, segregated food deserts, where fresh food is scarce but industrially produced ultraprocessed foods are cheap, convenient, and ubiquitous. Current efforts to address food deserts, and their negative health and environmental sequelae, often overlook small businesses as a solution. The NOURISH artificial intelligence-enabled (AI) platform empowers small businesses through novel, convergent solutions that allow small business owners to tailor products to local preferences for taste, convenience and affordability. It builds on the skill sets of existing, but often under-utilized talent, rich and diverse food heritages, unmet demand for healthy food, and the relatively low start-up costs to found new small business and expand established ones. Accessed through personal computer or cell phone app in multiple languages, the use-inspired NOURISH platform is an integrative solution that empowers users (new and established small farms and prepared food businesses) to: 1) obtain public and private capital for starting or expanding fresh food businesses, 2) explore market data on the competitive landscape, optimal business locations, and consumer preferences, 3) learn through curated business tutorials and a business plan assistant, 4) find partners in local fresh food supply chains through a "smart foodsheds" feature, and 5) understand and apply for locally required business licenses and permits. End-user testing begins in San Diego County (urban/suburban) and rural Imperial County before transitioning the product into widespread practical use, starting in California.
Animal Health Component
Research Effort Categories

Knowledge Area (KA)Subject of Investigation (SOI)Field of Science (FOS)Percent
Goals / Objectives
Overview NOURISH provides a user-centered web and mobile platform that will serve as a hub for small business owners and food entrepreneurs to connect with resources, capital, and support needed to launch or strengthen already existing fresh food businesses in food deserts. Food deserts are communities where ultra-processed "junk" food is widely available but fresh food is scarce. They are a consequence of market inefficiencies in the food system that advantage national food companies/chains and disadvantage small businesses. NOURISH uplifts small business food entrepreneurs, and collaborates with nonprofit small business mentoring organizations, to expand the capacity of small businesses to provide fresh food.DescriptionNOURISH provides five key platform components that address the expressed needs of our end users (aspiring and established small food business owners and their mentors), integrated using a multilingual chat-based (natural conversational language) interface:Business Financing Center to match public and private funders with aspiring new small business entrepreneurs and established small business owners looking to expand,Business Opportunities Map to provide local-level market data, insights, and suggestions regarding fresh food business opportunities,Business Resource Center to provide start-up support services, including tools for idea generation and business plan development, to new and established businesses,Fresh Food Marketplace to support and connect local fresh food suppliers and businesses in the local supply chain,Regulatory Navigator to provide recommendations regarding zoning, planning, business licensing and permit requirements.NOURISH will alleviate nutrition insecurity by empowering small businesses that serve food deserts to make fresh food more available, affordable, and convenient. This team will develop and extensively test the NOURISH platform during Phase 2 with two key use cases: 1) aspiring and established small business entrepreneurs (small farms, prepared food businesses) serving food deserts, and 2) small business mentors affiliated with the US Small Business Administration who provide services to small business owners at low or no cost. Throughout, we will incorporate feedback from users and partners to improve the platform and ensure it meets community needs. The team will scale the NOURISH platform from a two-county use case to the state of California, in collaboration with our partners from California-based nonprofit sector, government agencies and private investors.
Project Methods
Our team will build a dynamic AI-enabled platform and reusable cyber-infrastructure and the KNOW-FOOD knowledge graph and heterogeneous data warehouse linking data from government sources (e.g., USDA branded foods files), private industry, and local governments (e.g., local planning regulations). Incorporating the FoodOn ontology (from partner IC-FOODS) provides a semantic bridge linking datasets. The NOURISH platform uses geo-enriched data to create the food desert landscape and documents covering the municipal codes in California. A natural language question answering system was developed from the viewpoint of a small business owner. Key intellectual contributions include: (1) food systems knowledge graphs that integrate currently disparate, disjoint, and heterogeneous information, including structured and unstructured data from local businesses, demographics, socio-economics, food security, market projections, ethnic food practices, zoning laws and regulations, and funding sources; (2) development of market opportunity metrics, predictions, and guides that support local healthy food entrepreneurs, and (3) a system of novel AI tools including market opportunity and financing recommenders, a business plan assistant, and nutritional recommendation optimizer.