When Emily Brown’s two daughters were young, they suffered from chronic illnesses. The family was also going through difficult economic times. This led her to start her own business to help other people in the same position.
Working with hospitals, doctors and other community organizations, Brown created Free From Market, a website that provides access to healthy food, education and support. Patients who are referred to the site by their healthcare providers receive a monthly stipend for groceries that meet their dietary needs.
The service is the only one of its kind in Kansas City.
“We were on WIC and SNAP and couldn’t get the foods we needed to keep them healthy,” Brown said of the struggle to get adequate nutrition for her daughters.
Brown’s family was like many others. Six out of 10 adults in the United States have a chronic illness, according to the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.
Initially, Brown started a non-profit called the Food Equity Initiative to try to increase his community’s access to quality food for better health. But she learned there was a much greater need—enough to sustain a for-profit business. This led to the creation of Free From Market.
“We’ve seen the rise of social determinants of health, and the pandemic has really brought out those environmental and social factors that really have a significant impact on health,” Brown said. “So Free From Market is really the culmination of all those experiences to bring a solution at scale for people.”
A year and a few months into business, Free From Market became the first Kansas City startup chosen for the Google for Startups Black Founders Fund and awarded more than $100,000.
Brown considers this a significant honor, especially with less than 1% of the venture capital going to black founders.
“It’s not lost on me how significant this is to this community,” Brown said. “I hope just having this conversation today inspires others to pursue their passions and build solutions that make an impact in their community.”