Community SEEDS - Community Kitchen (Incubator Kitchen)
The Community Kitchen for Hunt County will give fledging food entrepreneurs and others who need a commercial space the opportunity to produce and process a variety of items, bringing opportunity for training and income.
Under the direction of Community Seeds, a Lone Oak, Texas, nonprofit organization that helps the needy, this facility stands to benefit individuals and the area in many ways:
- Provide a well-equipped commercial kitchen that can be leased by the hour for small-scale food producers, caterers and organizations. Commercial kitchen space and equipment are very expensive so it’s hard for beginning entrepreneurs to afford it. This kitchen will give them the opportunity to produce their products in a health department-approved space with the professional equipment they need.
- Offer food service training for people being served by Community Seeds, giving them employable skills that will lead to jobs. Community Seeds is dedicated not only to feeding the poor in the area, but also to providing them with training and skills to get a job so they can feed themselves and their families. Trainees will also assist the food entrepreneurs with production and packaging of their products, giving them hands-on experience to add to a resume.
- Provide support and training in production, labeling and entrepreneurial skills. It’s one thing to have a delicious product and another to successfully produce and market it profitably while navigating the maze of regulations for food safety, packaging and labeling. An Advisory Team will be composed of professionals with food production, marketing and business skills who can help kitchen participants get their food businesses started by offering classes to teach the necessary skills and provide ongoing mentorship to build successful businesses.
- Offer opportunities for sales of the products made in the kitchen. Having the right production space available is only one part of the path to success for food entrepreneurs. The Hunt County Food Cooperative will help foods produced in the area to be jointly marketed and sold, both in the retail space planned for the front of the building, and through a county-wide food cooperative that will market and sell Hunt County-made products at regional farmers markets and through wholesale and retail venues.
- Revitalize a neglected building on US Highway 69 in Lone Oak, Texas, bringing retail and manufacturing jobs to the area. The site chosen for the kitchen is a large, historic building in the downtown area. As with many small towns, this stretch has several vacant spaces and having a thriving community kitchen with a retail space in the front will bring new energy to the surrounding area.
Why Lone Oak, Texas? A large part of the funding for the Community Kitchen comes from a USDA Rural Development Grant, which has specific requirements for population and economic needs. That’s because the grant is concerned with creating jobs and economic opportunities. Fortunately, Lone Oak, the home of Community Seeds, fit the bill perfectly, down to the empty historic building donated to the project.