Seal the Seasons, a for profit social enterprise co-founded by Mr. William Chapman, master’s student in nutrition at the Gillings School of Global Public Health, won the 2015 SECU Emerging Issues Prize for Innovation February 10.
[Photo: Gillings School nutrition student Mr. William Chapman presents information on Seal the Seasons, a start-up he co-founded to make fresh, local foods more accessible to those without easy access to fruits and vegetables]
The contest, sponsored by the State Employees’ Credit Union (SECU) and SECU Foundation and administered by North Carolina State University’s Institute for Emerging Issues, challenges student teams at North Carolina’s two- and four-year colleges and universities to address social, economic, and health issues affecting the state. The first-place award carries a $50,000 prize.
Mr. Chapman and Seal the Seasons co-founder Mr. Patrick Mateer, an undergraduate political science and economics major at UNC-Chapel Hill, aim to increase the amount of locally produced food in mainstream supply chains in North Carolina. They also want to create markets for USDA Grade B produce and eliminate food deserts by chopping, flash-freezing and distributing produce that mainstream groceries choose not to use.
Grade B produce is of excellent quality nutritionally but may not meet the retail market’s expectations for color, size, or texture.
“Flash freezing is an innovative way to introduce healthy food into the food retail market because the quick-freezing method prevents spoilage and allows the nutritional quality of fruits and vegetables to be retained for up to one year,” Mr. Mateer said. “The method extends the seasonal availability of produce beyond the harvest season, and freezing equipment allows produce to be frozen on a large scale.”
In January 2014, Seal the Seasons was admitted into CUBE, the social innovation start-up incubator located in UNC-Chapel Hill’s Campus Y. Since then, CUBE has provided the organization with legal assistance, one-on-one mentoring and $5,000 in seed funding, said Ms. Mathilde Verdier, CUBE’s director.
Mr. Mateer said the $50,000 prize money will allow the organization to transition from initial production to longer-term sustainability by bolstering the production capacity required to meaningfully impact the local food market.