A patient-driven digital platform that empowers lower income Americans living with chronic health conditions to order the diet-specific foods and support they need announced Thursday it has closed a $2.1 million seed investment.
The funding for Free From Market — one of Startland News’ Kansas City Startups to Watch in 2023 — allows the company to enhance its proprietary technology platform and expand its service delivery model to provide affordable, inclusive access to the personalized foods, telenutrition and data necessary to improve health outcomes, said co-founder Emily Brown.
“Our new investors and partners, who bring expertise in food, supply chain, and digital health, provide us the opportunity to reach and impact more people,” said Brown, who also serves as CEO. “Every household, regardless of income or zip code, deserves access to high-quality food and ongoing support that meet their specific healthcare needs.”
“This milestone means so much to me and represents significant progress both personally and professionally,” she added in a LinkedIn post that touched on the startup’s connection to her family.
The funding round was led by Bluestein Ventures, and joined by Acumen America, Beta Boom, KCRise Fund, 1st Course Capital and AssetBlue Ventures. In addition, the company was a 2022 recipient of Google for Startups Black Founders Fund.
“We agree with FFM’s thesis that payors and providers must have private industry partners to grow food benefits to scale,” said Ed Frindt, partner at Kansas City-based KCRise Fund. “This is an innovative model, and this is the type of disruptive tech company that will create real change in public health.”
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The seed-round capital investment and support will also help Free From Market broaden its reach with managed care plans, providers, and community-based organizations to quantify the efficacy of “food is medicine” interventions for treating key health conditions, Brown said. The platform provides bulk ordering for organizations and direct-to-door access to individuals who can shop meals, produce, or shelf-stable, brand-name grocery items, as well as complementary telenutrition support.
“Food has a powerful ability to heal our bodies, and we’re thrilled to support FFM as they build the future in the ‘food is medicine’ space,” said investor Andrew Bluestein, managing partner of Bluestein Ventures. “We continue to be impressed by the team’s deep expertise and passion, both through lived experience and decades in the industry. FFM is the much-needed connective tissue, bringing together key stakeholders within food and healthcare industries to improve the health and wellness of our communities.”
Brown is a recognized thought leader in the “food is medicine” space as a board and council member of national organizations including the NIAID National Advisory Council and the Children’s Hospital Association’s Next Generation of Quality Steering Committee. In addition, she participated in the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health last September.
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“Emily’s lived experience on federal nutrition programs and inability to provide her family with the safe and healthy foods needed to treat their chronic conditions, drives our patient-focused company,” said Elise Bates, who co-founded FFM with Brown in 2021. “Together, we created a social impact-driven entity that can scale and attract the talent and resources needed to profitably improve health outcomes for millions while reducing the overall cost of care.”
Brown leads a team that has deep backgrounds across community health, food distribution, healthcare, technology, and nutrition, according to Bates. An early addition to the leadership team, Mark Jaffe, chief operating officer for Free From Market, previously was vice president of strategic operations at Everytable, a mission-driven food service company, and worked in technology investment banking and venture capital.
“One in three Americans has a condition where food is part of the standard of care, yet many Americans do not have access to food and resources needed to treat it,” said Brown. “Our curated food is free from ingredients an individual does not want, and full of all the nutrients they need to manage a healthy life. This funding round is merely one milestone towards our goal to make a lasting impact to improve healthcare in this country and center health equity.”