LaCreta Holland on Community Kitchens

LaCreta Holland

[LaCreta Holland will be teaching the upcoming reskilling workshop on Cooking Winter Soups and Stews, Feb. 4 at 9 a.m. at the Friends Meetinghouse on Prospect.]

Hi Katherine,

I am glad that you liked my link to the CA community kitchen. I loved the concept, although it seems that it was probably built with private money. And I agree with you that federal money is drying up.

I was in the Washington DC area in December and while shopping at Dulles Town Center, stumbled upon Cookology, also private, run by a woman who hires chefs to teach “recreational culinary school.” It’s an interesting concept, although retail, not public/community space.

Cookology in Washington DC, photo by Tim Thumb

Two ideas:

One–If you have been to our food bank, so much of what is there is processed food. I know that there are many donations of fresh food from local farms, but I wonder how many people using the food bank can cook and really know what to do with fresh food. Is there a push to teach these people to cook; can the money supporting the food bank help with a set up for that?

Two—I know and have talked with Jeremiah Dick , the chef/instructor for State High’s culinary courses. He is someone who has lots of plans for the future of cooking in this town. He is a graduate of two cooking schools and works on the weekends instructing at the culinary school at Penn Tech in Williamsport. The kitchen at the high school for the cooking classes (this is not home ec/FCS) is a commercial grade kitchen for the students who are in the technical program at the high school. I wonder if he would be interested/could give information about a community kitchen? My daughter is one of his students.

I guess the thought is if we get like minded people thinking about this concept of a community kitchen, can it get done that way? A variety of funding and donations for a variety of uses from a variety of people.

Any thoughts?

-LaCreta Holland

Katherine, replying:

Lots of thoughts.

1) Linda Tataliba, the director at the Food Bank, is aware of Spring Creek Homesteading Fund and the reskilling classes, and has expressed interest in linking food bank clients up with cooking classes to help people make better use of fresh produce when it’s available. But I think her main priority right now is finding or perhaps building a large building to house all the food banks programs and inventory, because for the last several years, a lot of volunteer time and energy has been going into shuffling supplies among several small spaces, none of which is big enough to hold all the materials and equipment (refrigeration, etc.) for the programs.

She’d also like to transition the Food Bank to a grocery-style model, giving clients more flexibility to choose foods. It’s quite frustrating – there are several good-size commercial properties sitting vacant around State College – but my understanding is that the owners make more by writing off the vacancies on their taxes than they would if they rented the space out to the Food Bank. Linda would know more about the status of those efforts.

2) I’ve heard from others – including Anne Burgevin, teaching the upcoming pasta class with her daughter Delali – about Jeremiah Dick and finally found his email address today. I knew about the Home Ec/Family and Consumer Sciences kitchens, because I put in a request last October with Ed Poprik at the State College Area School District facilities office, to find out about renting those classrooms for cooking classes.

The first response was that the kitchen equipment is worn out and needs to be upgraded – appliances are barely held together by the teachers right now, so they don’t want to rent them out and have more equipment breakdowns as a result.

I followed up to broach the idea of a capital campaign, to see if Spring Creek Homesteading could raise money from donors to upgrade the facilities, and then the school district could make those kitchens available for public rental during evenings and weekends for adult education cooking, canning and other food handling programs. The response was that the district has a blanket policy prohibiting public use of kitchens and workshops, to ensure that those facilities are reserved for school students. I suppose the next step would be to lobby the School Board to revise the facilities policy, to respond to  growing local demand for community homesteading education. 

I didn’t know about the separate facilities for the technical culinary program – would love to know more, and get advice from Jeremiah Dick and others about the logistics of setting up community kitchens.

3) My strategic planning is starting to coalesce around the idea of a food hub in downtown State College. Eventually, it could include all sorts of features, like farmers markets, catering, small batch processing & meal preparation businesses, teaching kitchens, greenhouses, tool libraries, food banks, cafes.

But whatever piece we start with, I think we need to get a physical toe-hold in some small, street-level commercial space somewhere in the 100-200 blocks of College Avenue, Beaver Avenue, Allen Street or Pugh Street. And I think the fundraising should be as local as possible – giving local people an investment structure to design and build a local community food center for ourselves.

First question: “How much are commercial rents per square foot in that district right now?” 

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s