Editor’s note: Startland News selected 10 Kansas City scaling businesses to spotlight for its annual Startups to Watch list. Now in its eighth year, this feature recognizes founders and startups that editors believe will make some of the biggest news in the coming 12 months. The following is one of 2023’s companies.
Emily Brown knows that food is personal, especially for people managing chronic health conditions.
“Food is part of our identity,” said Brown, co-founder of Free From Market. “It’s part of our culture, and what each of us needs to maintain our health or improve our health is different. We believe there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. That’s why creating a platform that allows individuals to access the foods they need and want at the right time is really important.”
Elevator pitch: Free From Market is a digital health company in the “food is medicine” space. We support individuals with chronic conditions where food is part of the standard of care with personalized food selection, tele-nutrition, and essential data.
- Founders: Emily Brown, Elise Bates
- Founding year: 2021
- Current employee count: 7
- Amount raised to date: Undisclosed
- Noteworthy investors: Bluestein Ventures, KCRise Fund, Acumen Fund, Beta Boom, 1st Course Capital, Asset Blue
- Programs completed: Tech Equity Hub, MedTech Color, Google for Startups
Free From Market is a digital health platform that unites three key components necessary for individuals with chronic conditions to make lasting dietary changes: personalized food selection, nutritional education and support, and essential data.
Patients are referred by a partner hospital, physician, payer, or community based organization, then receive a monthly subsidy to select groceries that are delivered to their doorstep.
Users can purchase food beyond the value or length of their subsidy, Brown said, and can filter by ingredients, allergens, and dietary restrictions.
Free From Market is currently open only to food-insecure and financially disadvantaged clients, Brown said, in order to make sure the platform serves those who need it most.
In addition to providing users with access to the food they need, Free From Market offers asynchronous and live educational content about nutrition.
“We know that it’s not enough just to give people access to the right foods at the right time,” Brown said. “Having access to education, that’s really empowering our users to take hold of their health and improve their health.”
The platform also allows users to choose a certified health coach for one-on-one telecoaching, which helps drive lasting behavioral changes, Brown said.
“We believe it’s important for everyone to see themselves,” she said. “That’s why we really believe in the power of utilizing certified health coaches. It’s important for people to connect with someone who understands their food identity, their food culture, and their cultural norms.”
Research has revealed that nutritional education is adopted at a higher rate when delivered by a practitioner culturally congruent to the patient’s identity, according to Brown.
Finally, Free From Market ensures that essential data about patients’ utilization habits of the platform is available to all stakeholders, Brown said.
“It empowers the individual to understand how their decisions and the selections that they make impact their health, and the same thing for their providers,” she said. “It’s an opportunity with that data to really then further drive interventions to improve health outcomes.”
Brown, a thought leader in the “food is medicine” movement, was inspired to start Free From Market after struggling to find affordable food for her daughters, who have chronic conditions.
In less than two years since its founding, Free From Market has already received widespread recognition, including most notably becoming the first Kansas City startup chosen for the Google for Startups Black Founders Fund earlier this year.
As part of that selection, the company received $100,000 in non-dilutive funding, $100,000 in Google Cloud credits, and free access to business coaching and mental health services.
Brown plans to continue building Free From Market, focused on helping folks with chronic conditions manage and improve their health.
“We hope to make Kansas City proud,” she said, “and continue to provide value and impact for those in Kansas City and beyond.”
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Startups to Watch is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.