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West Side Woman Hopes to Bring Healthier Food Options to Low-Income Areas

By Kelly Bauer | August 15, 2013 7:53am
 Yolanda Lobley, of Austin, plans to sell healthier food — like her fresh ground turkey sliders — through a food truck. She's using Kickstarter to fund the painting of her new food truck, among other things.
Yolanda Lobley, of Austin, plans to sell healthier food — like her fresh ground turkey sliders — through a food truck. She's using Kickstarter to fund the painting of her new food truck, among other things.
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Yolanda Lobley Kickstarter

AUSTIN — Yolanda Lobley knew it would be difficult to raise $5,500 in 30 days. But with less than one week left, she is almost there.

The Austin woman — who currently operates a hot-dog cart — is using Kickstarter to help pay for her food truck business, YoLo's, which she said she would use to bring healthier food to low-income areas.

Lobley, who already purchased a truck, has raised about $4,600. That money will go toward painting the truck, creating a website for YoLo's and installing a city-required GPS system, among other things.

Lobley's project is inspired by her own troubles: After she found out high blood pressure runs in her family, she decided to start eating healthier. However, she said she had to drive to suburban areas to find affordable options.

 Seed Chicago features local businesses on a Kickstarter page.
Seed Chicago
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Lobley said even if healthier food is available in neighborhoods like Austin, it's often "too expensive for the poor people to afford." She plans to make her fare — grilled veggie sandwiches, fruit cups, ground turkey sliders and more — more affordable and readily available.

"What I'm doing is bringing some fast food and snack alternatives so that people can eat healthier if they choose to do so," Lobley said.

However, she will continue to sell hot dogs, too.

Lobley's project is featured on Seed Chicago, a city initiative to promote small, local businesses with Kickstarter campaigns. Organizers from World Business Chicago curate projects and feature them on Kickstarter's Seed Chicago page for 30 days.

Katie Olson, strategy manager for WBC's Plan for Economic Growth and Jobs, said YoLo's would provide the neighborhood with "needed amenities."

"She's going to be expanding her business, which is great," Olson said. "If her business takes off she'll be able to add more workers ... maybe eventually she'll grow into a restaurant."

Lobley, whose backers are rewarded with food tickets, tote bags and T-shirts, said she will have to turn to loans if her food truck is not funded through Kickstarter. She was also selected for a MillerCoors program that will match the money she receives through Kickstarter backers if she is fully funded.

And though Lobley said she wishes Seed Chicago had given her business more exposure, she's learned about fundraising through the program.

"I like the program because they've given me a lot of tips as to how to get out there, how to social network," Lobley said. "I'm really proud of that."

When Seed Chicago first featured businesses in April, five were funded.

Of the 14 businesses currently being featured, two — the Geek Out Geek bar and the GROW-Food initiative — have been funded. Business owners who want to be featured on Seed Chicago create their Kickstarter project and then apply online through World Business Chicago.

Funding for this cycle of Seed Chicago projects will end on Aug. 22.

Other unfunded projects being featured in this Seed Chicago cycle:

• "The Eyes Tell All": A book with detailed pencil portraits of the project's Kickstarter backers.

• "My Block, My Hood, My City:" A book and Web series that follows Chicago's Jahmal Cole as he goes to each neighborhood in the city.

Taste of Rogers Park: An event to promote the art district, beaches and musicians of Rogers Park.

Chicago ArborCorps: A group that organizers volunteer "pitch-in" events where anyone can help clean up parks and community gardens.

South Chicago's Arts & Crafts Fair: A Sept. 7 event at 9100 S. Commercial Ave. where 25 to 30 artists will show off and sell their work and interact with fair-goers.

ONE-P: Customizable fitness wear from a North Park University graduate, created in a Cicero factory.

Call for Public Art: A plan to produce six to eight murals in local communities, employ artists in community-based projects and more.

• "Victorious Vampire:" A theater performance that engages participating children with a costume contest, mock jewelry heist and more.

Software-Defined Radio Devices: Manufacturing and distributing software-defined radio transceivers in the Chicago area.

Pet Project: Creating and selling humorous "warning signs" for pets like hamsters and rabbits.

People Spot: Creating a "people spot" with a mural, seating and greenery at the six corners in Wicker Park.