Unless you have the required financial incentives, starting a new business can entail relying on a bank loan for financing. Aside the fact that applying for bank loans tend to be a long and daunting process, the main difficulty is the many requirements and fees lenders impose — not to mention the long repayment terms that can last a decade or more.

Even food trucks, with their relatively low startup requirements, face financing issues just as much as any other business. So it is not uncommon that food truck owners have leveraged some of the newer, less traditional methods and strategies for gathering the capital needed to start their business.

A grant, which is one of such strategies, is a contribution provided to an individual or organization by a government or organization for a specific purpose. Unlike a loan, it does not have to be repaid, but its use may be contingent upon certain qualifications.

You can think of business grants like scholarships for adults. Just as with a scholarship, you have to convince the grant-issuer that a) you will put the funds to good use and b) you are more deserving of the money than other applicants.

There are many types of business grants offered by myriad organizations, both public and private; and eligibility requirements tend to also vary. In general, though, only certain types of businesses are eligible for grants. If you’re interested in launching a food truck, it is imperative you get familiar with some food related grants offered in the United States. These options may include:

28 Best Sources of Grants to Start a Food Truck Business and How to Get Them

1. Grants.gov

Grants.gov is renowned as the biggest online platform connecting entrepreneurs and business owners to government agencies that offer grants. This site features more than 1,000 grant programs in every niche possible. However, the downside is that most programs appeal to non – profit organizations and some Truck Businesses might not qualify.

Simply start by clicking Search Grants or enter a keyword related to your business, such as restaurant or café. Filter the results by eligibility, type of funding, category, agency and other criteria. Select the grant programs you’re interested in and check their requirements.

2. Local Food Promotion Program (Implementation Grants)

Implementation Grants are used to establish a new local and regional food business enterprise, or to improve or expand an existing local or regional food business enterprise. Note that these Grants start from $100,000 to $500,000 ($13 million total pool). Apply in May for September funds. 25 percent match required.

3. Grantwatch – Grants for all businesses

Grantwatch still remains a wonderful place to start when searching for programs to suit your niche or industry. This site is a virtual warehouse of detailed information. You can find grants specifically for nonprofits that benefit startups and women, grants for entrepreneurs with businesses that help or hire former military, and even grants to build or rehabilitate housing for Veterans.

4. Trucker – specific grants

According to reports, most of the grants available specifically to the food truckers are aimed at “green” initiatives, including the National Clean Diesel Campaign organized by the Environmental Protection Agency. Some of these programs are channelled towards providing funding to trucking companies (food trucks inclusive) for a variety of measures that reduce emissions. Howbeit, in many cases these grants only help to offset the higher cost of “greener” trucks and equipment, but don’t provide enough funding to cover the entire cost of a truck and its accessories.

5. Michael & Susan Dell Foundation

The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation are focused on transforming the lives of children living in urban poverty through improving their education, health and family economic stability. They also provide funding to food related businesses to ensure the actualization of the program objectives.

6. Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo supports organizations that work to strengthen communities through projects that keep communities strong, diverse, and vibrant. Priority is given to programs and organizations whose chief purpose is to benefit low –  and moderate – income individuals and families.

7. Minority Business Development Center (MBDC)

This grant program supports minority – owned businesses that contribute to economic growth. Each year, it awards grants to creative entrepreneurs looking to expand their businesses. In 2018, applicants competed for a grant of up to $1 million. Those who won the Meda’s Million Dollar Challenge received funding, mentorship and access to professional connections.

8. K. Kellogg Foundation (Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico and New Orleans. Mexico, Haiti, Indigenous Populations)

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation is committed to providing capital for non – profit and for – profit entities that advance its mission to support families and communities in creating conditions in which all children can thrive and generate both social and financial returns.

9. Community Economic Development (CED) Program

The Department of Health and Human Services’ Community Economic Development (CED) Program always strives to address the economic needs of low income people through the creation of employment and business opportunities.

These funds can be leveraged for business startup and expansion, and the purchase of equipment or property. CED projects can support agriculture initiatives by providing funding for physical food hubs, processing or cooperative facilities, job training and marketing.

10. FedEx Small Business Grant Contest

FedEx propels innovation through its annual contest targeted at small business owners. Every year, entrepreneurs are rewarded with grants of $15,000 to $50,000. If your food truck is out of the ordinary and has an original concept, it could win the big prize. It allocates a portion of its profits to neighbourhood programs that promote education.

11. Rural Business Enterprise Grant (RBEG)

This grant establishes fund programs that are designed to support targeted technical assistance, training and other activities leading to the development or expansion of small and emerging private businesses in rural areas.

12. Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund

The major purpose of the CDFI Program is to use federal resources to invest in CDFIs and to build their capacity to serve low – income people and communities that lack access to affordable financial products and services. CDFIs may use the funds to pursue a variety of goals, including economic development promotion and business development.

CDFI Funds provide an opportunity for business developments, such as food hubs and cooperatives that may enhance farm to school efforts.

13. America’s Healthy Food Financing Initiative

HFFI provides financial assistance to help healthy food retailers overcome higher costs and initial barriers to entry in underserved areas across the country. This initiative focuses on projects that increase access to healthy fresh food for low – income and under – served populations. The grants start from $25,000 to $250,000 ($1.4 million total pool).

14. 7(a) Loan Program, SBA

The program provides new and growing businesses with loans of up to $5 million with an SBA guaranty of 75 percent to 85 percent. Loans may be used to purchase equipment, inventory, fixtures, leasehold improvements, working capital, debt refinancing for compelling reasons, change of ownership.

15. StreetShares Foundation Business Awards

This grant program is specific to just veterans or veterans’ spouses who want to create or expand their food truck business. They who can apply for up to $15,000 in grant money from the Foundation.

Note that applications are considered by the social impact a business will have on the military community, the business idea, the team and company history, product – market fit, and how the award will be used. There are three grants offered annually: $2,000, $3,000, and $5,000.

16. ACCION

ACCION offers financing and business education to small businesses across the country. They offer loans of up to $15,000 for startup businesses and $25,000 for established businesses. They also offer Credit Builder loans between $200 and $2,500.

17. Warrior Rising

This program was established by veterans to provide grants to veterans and their immediate families to help them create sustainable businesses and hire fellow veterans. Businesses at all stages can apply, including food trucks, and grants can be used to cover initial startup costs such as tools, equipment, licensing and marketing.

18. Capital Impact Partners

Capital Impact Partners is demonstrating the impact that increased access to fresh, healthy foods can have by financing new stores, expansion of existing stores and innovations such as mobile markets and food hubs that scale distribution efforts

19. The Amber Grant

Note that woman that own food truck businesses can apply for the Amber Grant, which offers grants of $2,000 each to 12 winners, who all qualify to win one annual prize of $25,000. To enter, the women are expected to tell their story from the heart and disclose what they will do with the money if they win. There is a $15 application fee to enter, but that is just a small price to pay.

20. Certified Development Company (504) Loan Program, SBA

The program provides growing businesses with long – term, fixed – rate financing for major fixed assets, such as land, buildings, equipment, and even trucks. 504 Loans are typically structured with SBA providing 40 percent of the total project costs, a participating lender covering up to 50 percent of the total project costs, and the borrower contribution 10 percent of the project costs

21. SBIR Grants (Small Business Innovation Research)

Note that this program was propounded by Congress. This program awards approximately $2 billion to small businesses each year and a number of food truck businesses have benefited from this grant. Eligibility requirement include owning a small business with less than 500 employees.

The business must be for profit, be in the United States, and owned by a United States citizen. Also note that the grant amount depends on what the business would like to do with it. The purpose is to use the money to conduct research to grow the business. This can be research on the products or services offered to consumers.

22. Community Development Finance Institute

This grant program offers low – interest loans within focus areas: 1) Healthy Food Financing Initiative – Financial Assistance awards are also offered for CDFIs that are interested in expanding their healthy food financing activities 2) Native Initiatives program creates jobs, builds businesses, and fosters economic self – determination in Native Communities nationwide

23. NASE Growth Grants

The NASE is also another grant fund that is available to food truck businesses. The National Association for the Self – Employed demonstrates the need to help small business owners of all types.

Growth grants are issued in amounts up to $4,000 and can be used for “marketing, advertising, hiring employees, expanding facilities and other specific business needs,” according to the NASE website. You’ll have to join the NASE and be a member in good standing to qualify for this grant.

24. Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC)

The healthy food project grant is available for non – profit and for – profit operators of healthy food businesses including retail food stores, farmers markets, food coops and other healthy food production or distribution activities. Non – profit and for – profit development organizations providing space for healthy food operations can also apply

25. Good Food Accelerator

This Accelerator program is for food entrepreneurs to expand the production, marketing and distribution of locally and responsibly produced food, in order to enhance the social, economic and environmental health of our communities

26. Reinvestment Fund

This Healthy Food Financing Initiative is more renowned for the Public – Private partnership with USDA Rural Development, to offer financing for healthy food retail projects like food trucks and food restaurants.

27. RSF Social Investment Fund

RSF provides loans to social enterprises that have impact across the food and agriculture supply chain and enable local economies to flourish and cater to the local population. Food truckers can also leverage this financing option to start up and develop their business within their local community.

28. Women’s Business Centers

Women’s Business Centers has proven to be another friendly organization that offers grants to women that run small businesses, including food trucks. According to reports, about 100 SBA – sponsored women’s business centers exist throughout the United States of America. They are designed to assist women with growing their small businesses (food trucks inclusive).

Although the agencies provide counselling and training on various topics, they may also help you find local grants that you may qualify for and help walk you through the application process. To search for a local Women’s Business Center in your area, you can visit their official website.

How to Apply and Get Grants in the United States

Have it in mind that grant application is not easy as grants are only given to individuals or organisations that exist for the greater good, not merely for profit. Nonetheless, it is pertinent to understand all the nuances of state, private, and federal grants, before relying on them as means of business funding.

1. Understand the Process

When seeking grants as a Food trucker, note that the process can be lengthy. Before you can apply for grants in the United States, it is advisable you determine if you are eligible, and you may need to research other funding options.

Also make sure you understand what funders are looking for and have a deep understanding of what your business can offer others. Also have it in mind that once you receive funds, you will be tasked with recording outcomes and making detailed reports on how the money was used.

2. Determine Your Eligibility

Before you start seeking or filling grant applications, it is imperative to make sure you are even eligible to receive one. As a startup business applying for a grant, there are specific qualifications you are expected to meet. Federal funds are only given to startups if your business will be serving the greater good in society.

In other words, organizations that are non – profits, educational institutions or engaging in activities such as scientific research or developing cutting – edge technologies have an upper hand. Additionally, your Truck Business will be expected to fall within specific size standards in order to qualify as a “small” business.

3. Complete the application

Note that the different components of the application will vary with each grant, but you will be expected to write a business proposal. You will also have to clearly explain how the funding will help you put your ideas into practice. If you are filling out the application on a computer as opposed to manually, you will need to hit the “save” button frequently to preserve your work.

If you have graphs, charts or other visual metrics that will help convey your business ideas, then you should include these as well. These visuals will give the committee an idea of how you plan to measure your results once you get the grant.

4. Submit your application

After you must have completed the form or application, check it thoroughly again before submitting. Also make sure everything is properly formatted, sized, and contains no errors. Do not forget to keep an eye on the file size. There is a file size limit of 200mb on grants.gov. Individual attachments should also be less than 100mb.

Find ways to concisely convey your mission and goals so your application can take up less space. Attachment file names are also restricted to 50 characters in length and should not include the special characters &,  – , *, /, #, or periods, accent marks or blank spaces.

Video (.mpeg, .mov, .avi), graphic image (.gif, .jpg, .tif) and audio (.aif, .au, .wav) files should be compressed before being attached, according to the standards of the grant you’re applying for. Always remember that your application must be error free before you submit it. Click the “Check Package for Errors” button on the application to make sure your application is correct.

Also note that your grant will be quickly dismissed if it includes any errors such as typos, grammatical errors or other technical problems. Show the committee you pay attention to details by thoroughly editing your application. The final step in the application process entails hitting the Save & Submit button. This will become available once all of the errors are corrected.

Conclusion

Note that only very few private businesses are actually eligible for a business grant. Unless your food truck startup is highly innovative and provides a demonstrable benefit to your community, you are probably not grant – recipient material.

Also, even if you are eligible for some grant money and you make it through the lengthy proposal process; you may only land a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. Howbeit, startup grants are particularly hard to come by.

Solomon. O'Chucks