Taste of Immokalee
Taste of Immokalee is more than products; it is the story of how immigrant children from a socio-economically underserved area used entrepreneurship to begin a journey of social change. It is the story of how a small group of high school students started a movement that can be replicated in areas like their town of Immokalee.
Three years ago, a group of 16 Immokalee High School student leaders set out on a mission to give back to their Immokalee community after a conversation upon their return from a food-packing event. During the drive, they passed several orange groves and tomato fields and an idea spurred in the form of a question: “What if we create food products that embody the different souls and cultures of Immokalee to address hunger?”
Being ambitious leaders, we wanted to leave a lasting impact. As part of the One by One Leadership Foundation, we received a grant from the State Farm Youth Advisory Board to develop food products to learn about food science and food-related issues in our community. However, what we learned far surpassed those objectives.
Today we have 7 different delicious and wholesome products in the Taste of Immokalee food line. Immokalee is the tomato center of the U.S., which is reflected in our unique fire-roasted tomato and jalapeno salsa; our spice-blend is a mix of seasonings from the various Hispanic cultures embodied in our city; and our chocolate chip orange zest cookie contains the oranges from the fields of our sunshine state. We also carry two hot sauces and two BBQ sauces.
Each of our products contain a small part of our town, a bit of who we are, and an idea of what Immokalee means to us. Student-created and student-operated, we’ve receive hands-on experience in marketing, inventory and quality control, finance, and public speaking, and all profit that is earned through the purchasing of our products will be used to empower the community of Immokalee.
Growing up in Immokalee, our lives have not been the easiest to navigate. However, we never let the struggles we went through hinder us. We are the next generation of leaders and what started out as a project has become something bigger than we could have ever imagined. We have decided to take this opportunity to create generational transformation in a town built on the backs of poor migrant workers. We are not victims of our circumstances but agents of change for our community. Taste of Immokalee (TOI) has given us a sense of pride and accomplishment.
Utilizing the resources we have in Immokalee, we aim to improve the community and give back to the hardworking laborers who are our town’s backbone. We want to showcase how special Immokalee is to us and the unique individuals who make our town so different. Individually, we are nothing, but together, we represent a place full of life, determination, and a continued desire for success.
This company does not just represent hard-working students breaking the mold; it represents a town dear to our hearts and our mission to make a difference in the lives of those around us. A reason why a community like Immokalee doesn’t grow is because the youth do not come back after graduating from college. We need to provide them with a reason to come back. Taste of Immokalee can be the company where students come back because they have a career opportunity after college. While our resources are limited, we understand we are at a pivotal point in our growth and development and your purchase of our products will help us take a huge step in the direction of ending the problem in our community rather than being a part of it. Help us become part of the solution.