In the last couple of months, we have been ramping up work on the planned commercial kitchen in Freeport. You can read about some of our activities here in the Journal Standard. Two public meetings were held in Freeport in January. We also visited the FEED Kitchens in Madison. Now known as Pretzel City Kitchens, this is an opportunity that allows for a wide range of collaboration with community partners. Partners include the City of Freeport, Stephenson County Health Department, University of Illinois Extension, Blackhawk Hills Regional Council, Highland Community College, CareerTec, Freeport School District, Stephenson County Farm Bureau, Food Entrepreneurs, and Third Ward Neighborhood Residents. All of us have come together to work on this project that can address a growing need in our area for growers, producers, current food businesses, those wanting to start a food business, and organizations that need kitchen space.
The goals of Pretzel City Kitchens are to provide space for value-added products to be developed in the area. This is the next step when we talk about a local food system. It is one thing to be able to acquire fresh produce, meats, and cheeses locally but we should also be addressing those products that could be developed through a food enterprise center that takes the next step in showing off the great foods being grown and produced in the area. This is what is called value added. We also see it as a way for growers and food entrepreneurs to collaborate together. A grower could provide produce for a food entrepreneur’s recipe.
For some food entrepreneurs, there are challenges that they face when it comes to manufacturing their product. They may need certain licensing. They may need certain equipment. They may not have the space to scale up production. A commercial kitchen space can address many of the needs that these food entrepreneurs have. We also see this space as a way to showcase local food products.
So how can you assist? The first step we need is to hear from you. We have setup a survey that only takes a couple of minutes. We now have a facebook page and website. In the coming months, both the facebook fanpage and website will be the best way to keep informed about the project as it moves along.
More information on the project can be found here as well as on the Pretzel City Kitchens website.