May 3, 2010
IF there were a list of only a few things that a community could do to spur economic growth I am a firm believe near the very top of the list should be designing, building and running a ‘community kitchen’!
Be it a small village or a urban area like Anchorage, any area can do it. In fact larger cities than Anchorage and small towns like our villages already do have them in many parts of the United States.
Community kitchens are just what they sound like: food-preparation facilities that can be used by communities. What makes this more than just another coffee klatch at the neighbor’s house is that these kitchens are officially open to everyone. And larger ones can be commercially certified, so that cooks who prepare things here can sell their products, according to Come to the Table (pdf). p 24
These facilities don’t have to be very big or complex. They don’t need a high priced consultant to be designed. There are lots of sources for ideas and specification can be found on the Internet.
It can start out as simple as good sinks, work areas, refrigeration and possibly freezer storage. Equipment can be added as demand shows the need. The local food safety department ,or in Alaska, our state DEC office can assist you on what is needed to be ‘commercially certified’. It is not as complex or hard as it might look.
Facilities such as a community kitchen can serve many needs. From the basics of being a place where people can gather to do large volume cooking needs, such as community celebrations or potlatches.
It can be used as a place for people who want to develop food products to sell. They develop their ‘process’ to the point they feel it is ready for production. Then working with the state on that process to get it certified so it can be replicated in a safe manner by anyone. No, you do not have to share your secret formulas! Then you are ready to go with a few more basic business steps.
Products such as jellies from local fruits, a favorite smoked fish recipe or even a pet treat turned into something that can be sold over the Internet are things that can be developed in a community kitchen.
Things like cooking classes for new moms on the how to get your kids to eat more veggies or an elder passing on some of their special recipes can also use a facility like this.
Someone who wants to start a catering business would not have to invest in all the equipment immediately and instead build the demand for their services first, using one of these kitchens. Then maybe go onto open a small eatery?
Community Kitchens most often charge a small fee, usually daily or hourly, for the use of the facility that is then used to maintain and/or upgrade the facility. Most communities get the initial facility built by using grants. This is an easy and excellent use for those villages that have CDQ monies and can be done easily done in total as an ‘local effort’, keeping as much of the monies local and costs down.
One such effort, of a half dozen in southern Wisconsin county has spawned dozens of food based companies.
Leaders of the various kitchens in those counties coordinate efforts through their extension service. They have built networks to share everything from ideas to some equipment and contacts. Some offer marketing and technical assistance to help get products and businesses up and running.
Amongst a number of us at more than one table at the Western SARE meeting in Fairbanks, there was a healthy discussion on this subject and its benefits to a number of areas in the state. We got into quite a discussion on pet treats from salmon alone!! A billion dollar market…pets!
Having a place where villagers could prepare subsistence foods for those in urban areas who would want to buy them, is another idea. They can also serve as training facilities for those who are disabled to learn more hands on skills. Even as places for school groups to make products they can sell for fund raisers.
There continues to be a rise in holistic products, like a caribou leaf salve I get from a lady in Juneau to help with joint pain, and this can serve as a base for these ideas as well.
The ideas mentioned here are but just a few . I have to think there are so many more. It would be great to get an idea of what all you are thinking from your village or city. What can you see being developed from your area?
Given all the creativity of people, it would be great to hear other ideas you all felt could be developed with the help of a facility such as this.
photos courtesy of finnskimo
Cassidy and Maddisen are making The Perfect Gift!