Raul Lozano has spent his life feeding and nourishing people.  From his time as a young person harvesting food in California’s Central Valley, he has been aware of the divide between the fed and the hungry.

That gap has gotten wider as vegetables, especially organic vegetables, have gone up in price, making healthy food out of reach for many, even in Silicon Valley’s tech-fueled-wealth environment.

Raul founded Valley Verde to help San Jose’s most vulnerable residents have access to healthy, organic vegetables. His non-profit organization teaches low-income families in Santa Clara County to grow and maintain their own organic vegetable gardens at no cost.  The organization is particularly focused on serving immigrant communities.  Valley Verde is the only place where many of these families can find seeds to grow vegetables that are indigenous to their native countries, including okra and bok choy.

Valley Verde funds this effort by selling gardening kits to individuals and organizations.  The organization is also starting to sell some of these organic seedings to other nurseries to raise additional funds.  However, the need for low-income families is far out-pacing the sales side of the business.

If you have read any of my posts in the past, you know that giving back is a core life value for me.  That’s why I’ve been happy and honored to contribute financially to Valley Verde since its beginnings.  I feel strongly about Raul’s vision for feeding Silicon Valley’s people and his savvy in driving a non-profit organization, which isn’t easy in any climate, but can be especially challenging in the Silicon Valley world where most funding goes to for-profit start-ups.  That’s why when our four entrepreneurs from Europe were here last month for Neal’s Running Start, I made sure to build a day focused on giving back where we invited Raul to share some of the things he has learned as a non-profit founder and leader.

Giving back to the community in whatever way you can is part of being a responsible and contributing human being.  Some people, like Raul, give their time, talents, ideas and hard work.  Some of us, like me, volunteer time and money to assist the Rauls of the world in realizing their vision.  What’s most important is that everyone do something to help others and give back.  I challenged our four entrepreneurs – Katherine, Antti, Mario and Odie (our nickname for Neal Oddens) – to take this lesson back with them and treat it with equal importance to all the business lessons they learned during their stay in Silicon Valley.

Recently, I also challenged Raul to raise some additional funds so he can meet the increased number of families his organization helps teach families to learn to become self-sufficient organic gardeners.  He raised $10,000.00 in total from other donors like the Kellogg and Packard Foundations. I decided to match that $10,000 because I am proud of what he’s done and what he is doing to nourish our families in need in Silicon Valley.  But I’d like to see the Silicon Valley tech industry do more.  I’m challenging my colleagues in the VC world, entrepreneurs and tech leaders to raise another $10,000 for this important cause.

If you’d like to donate or buy one of his gardening kits to help support Valley Verde and ensure our vulnerable populations are getting the nourishment they need and deserve, please visit his website at www.valleyverde.org.

A big thank you to Raul from all of us at Bay Partners for the important work he does for our community.  We are extremely proud to play our part!

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