KALAMAZOO, MI – Fair Food Matters' Can-Do Kitchen, a Kalamazoo-based incubator for commercial cooking and those trying to work their way into the food business, is taking steps to become a stand-alone operation.
"After seven strong years of supporting entrepreneurs and a vibrant regional food system with Fair Food Matters, the Can-Do Kitchen is becoming a separate 501(c)3 non-profit organization," the directors of Fair Food Matters wrote in a statement Monday.
The Can-Do Kitchen, a program of Fair Food Matters, expects to relocate in 2016 from about 1,400-square-feet of space it uses at 511 Harrison St., and expand in a two-step process. The kitchen is on the north side of the People's Food Co-op building, which has a separate 507 Harrison St. address.
"We will relocate to a larger interim kitchen facility that will allow us to do all the things we are already doing," Lucy Dilley, program manager of the Can-Do Kitchen, said of supporting food businesses. "And in two to three years, we will move to a place where we can expand."
She said the kitchen needs more room for cooking, baking and packaging. It also wants room for teaching stations, workshops, events, and links with food hub and farmers' market activities.
Dilley said the kitchen has been growing and hopes to find a permanent home with about 3,000 to 5,000 square feet of space. The People's Food Co-op is also growing, she said, and could use the space now occupied by Can-Do Kitchen inside the 6,500-square-foot building it opened in 2011.
Opened in 2008, the Can-Do Kitchen leases licensed kitchen space and basic kitchen equipment that new and existing food entrepreneurs can use to produce food products for sale. It provides resources for start-ups, including help with marketing, commercial kitchen training, formulating a business plan and help with obtaining a food license.
Started in 2001, Fair Food Matters strives to improve the physical, economic and social health of the community by improving access to healthy, locally produced food and by educating, connecting, and empowering interested people in the Kalamazoo community. Its key program is the Growing Matters Garden program, an experiential learning program at Woodward Elementary School in Kalamazoo.
By separating the two operations, Dilley said, "We can focus on our more specific mission of helping food entrepreneurs and Fair Food Matters can focus on the Growing Matters Garden program."
The Can-Do Kitchen cited nine advancements it made during this year:
-The incubation program supported eight new startups and 12 core businesses;
-It helped dozens of workshop participants learn crucial business skills;
-70 percent of its clients were women-owned businesses;
-Three clients hired employees;
-Three new clients obtained state-required food establishment licenses;
-It wrapped up the first cycle of Business Builder Scholarships, providing startup capital to nine entrepreneurs who lacked the funds necessary to start businesses;
-Four of its clients grew to distribute their products in the Detroit and Grand Rapids areas and even as far as the Upper Peninsula;
-50 products were produced each week in its kitchen and sold state-wide.
-One client, Free Love Bakery, graduated into its own facility. The name of the business, a seller of gluten-free foods, is a reference to allowing people who want gluten-free products to be free to love food again. It is owned by Julie Fox, of Kalamazoo.
More about Find out the Can-Do Kitchen is available at its website: http://www.candokitchen.org/