Feb 11, 2014

FEED Kitchens in Madison helps start-up food businesses grow

Excerpted from wisbusiness.com
By Brian E. Clark

It’s nearly impossible to grow a start-up food business without access to a commercial kitchen.

So says Karen Bassler, executive director of the Madison’s North Side Planning Council, which launched FEED Kitchens on Madison’s North Side in November. FEED stands for “Food Enterprise and Economic Development.”

Bassler said the $1.57 million food business incubator was funded with hundreds of donations, small private investments, a $500,000 grant from the City of Madison and a $400,000 loan from Forward Community Investments, a Madison-based lender that funds non-profits and cooperatives.

“FEED Kitchens is the brainchild of a number of people who had been thinking for years that we needed some place in Madison where we could kick start businesses for people who could not invest in a whole kitchen of their own,” said Bassler.

According to its website, the project’s mission is to create an enterprise that supports local food entrepreneurs and the development of food-related employment by providing five commercial kitchen spaces for food processing… increasing the availability of local, healthy and affordable food in the greater Dane County area.

Bassler said FEED Kitchens was established primarily for the entrepreneur who wants to start or grow a food business, such as food cart vendors or caterers. But as the conversations over the project continued, Bassler said backers realized the facility also could help non-profits get fresh vegetables and produce to schools for healthy snacks and salad bar items.

The location of FEED at a North side shopping plaza near a bus line helps the facility also serve as a community center, where local groups can do food preparation for fundraisers, and as a job training site for the unemployed and former inmates. One initiative works with local restaurants to develop an internship program that could lead to full-time employment.

Read the full article.