Mohamed Dekow, Executive Director of Sustainable Livelihoods Relief Organization, Dekow.firstname.lastname@example.org, 207-330-1352
Jonah Fertig-Burd, Director of Cooperative Food Systems at Cooperative Development Institute, email@example.com, 207-615-9970
Successful Kickstarter campaign will help Isuken Co-op Food Truck bring Somali Bantu Farm to Table Food to the streets of Lewiston and events in Maine
New video, produced by Bates College students, released today shares their story
Isuken Co-op is creating the nation’s first Somali Bantu farm to table food truck sharing their unique cuisine with the people of Lewiston and Maine. Now thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, Isuken is closer to making this dream a reality. They were able to raise over $12,000 in a few weeks and are now in the last week of their campaign working to reach a stretch goal of $16,000 by June 1st. With the funding from the Kickstarter Campaign and other financing, they will purchase their truck and hit the streets of Lewiston this summer and head to festivals, farms, and events in Maine.
“Isuken means unity in our language and our goal with Isuken has united us,” says Isnina Ibrahim, president and worker-owner of the cooperative. “We can do more together as a co-op, we can accomplish anything.”
Students from Bates College just worked with Isuken Co-op to produce a short video about the cooperative and their goal of the food truck. The video was released on Facebook Tuesday. The video can be viewed on Facebook: https://bit.ly/2JbH6Vr
Isuken Co-op grows vegetables on a farm in Lisbon that is run by Cultivating Community and they will also source food from other Somali Bantu farmers and Maine farmers in the region. Their food will be prepared on the truck by mothers, fathers and grandmothers who are owners of the cooperative. The Somali Bantu have traditionally farmed and fed their community and country, and are now growing and cooking for their American neighbors.
“We have our own food traditions that I want to share with a culture that has never tried it,” says Isaac Garrow, worker-owner and Operations Manager for Isuken Co-op.
Isuken’s menu will have dishes for meat eaters, vegetarians, vegans and gluten-free people. The main products that Isuken food truck will offer are Sambusas, fried pastries filled with local meats and veggies. They will offer beef, chicken, fish, goat, and veggie (vegan) options. For beverages, they will offer Somali chai tea, a sweet, spicy, milky tea or tea without milk.
“Isuken Co-op is providing an inspiring example of how immigrants and refugees are using cooperative businesses to meet their needs and share their culture with the wider community,” says Jonah Fertig-Burd, from the Cooperative Development Institute. Fertig-Burd and the Cooperative Development Institute have provided training and development support for Isuken Co-op during this start-up phase and will assist the co-op as they continue to grow.
Isuken is a worker-owned cooperative with the six members sharing equally in the responsibilities and rewards of the business. This co-op structure is inspired by their traditional form of cooperation “Iskashito,” where they farmed and worked together in Somalia. Isuken is the 2nd New American-owned cooperative in Maine.
“Growing our own food builds our capacity and connects people in our community together,” says Mohamed Dekow, Executive Director of Sustainable Livelihoods Relief Organization, a community based non-profit that supports Isuken Co-op.
Isuken Co-op expects to purchase their food truck in June and open up in July. They are planning a grand opening event in Lewiston (Date TBA) that will celebrate their growth and introduce them to the wider community.
Isuken’s Kickstarter Campaign: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1149804593/somali-bantu-food-truck-for-maine
Cooperative Development Institute: www.cdi.coop
Sustainable Livelihoods Relief Organization: www.slromaine.org