Federal Grants Programs for Shared Use Commercial Kitchens Supporting Local Food Systems

Bootstrapping a shared commercial kitchen is never easy. Especially if you are looking to make a difference in your local community, support small food businesses, or run educational programs.

Happily, there are sources of funding out there for community-focused projects that aim to give something back to the local food community. Each year the federal government hands out millions in grants to organizations that can show that the money will be put to good use. 

Here we take a look at some examples of community projects involving shared-use commercial kitchens that each received hundreds of thousands of dollars to make an impact in their communities. 

Over $92.2 million in grant funding was announced for the Local Agriculture Market Program alone. If you’re looking to make a difference and need the funding to kick-start your project, read on for the details of how to apply for the recently announced funding programs. Applications are due in June and July so you will have to act quickly.  

Inspirational Shared Kitchen Projects Already Funded

If you’re wondering if your shared kitchen project would be eligible for funding, there’s a ton of information on the government website. But we thought we’d also share some of the projects that have been funded in the last couple of years, to give you a real sense of the possibilities. 

A huge range of businesses received grants of up to $500,000, from a port authority looking into the feasibility of a local seafood hub, to shared kitchen incubators supporting the local immigrant population, to non-profits funding kitchens attached to town-center farmers markets.

As long as you meet the criteria specified, it’s worth applying. And with the increased funding amounts, your odds are better than ever. You never know, it might just be the kickstart for your dream project.


Brookings, South Dakota (Rural Development)

In 2018, Brooking Economic Development Corporation received a USDA Rural Business Development grant of $91,025 to create a commercial kitchen and implement a technical assistance program to support local entrepreneurs. Brookings Kitchen was born, appropriately located in the Old Ben Franklin building in the heart of the town, a former local grocery store and market.  

The project provides licensed commercial kitchen space free to entrepreneurs with creative ideas that support the local community, including cooking classes, pop-ups, start-ups, and bakers.

Credit: Brookings Commercial Kitchen Facebook. March 3, 2021. “SDSU group is in the BCK filming today!”

YorKitchen, York, Pennsylvania (Rural Development)

YorKitchen was set up with a grant of $99,000 from the USDA Rural Development fund awarded in 2017. This shared kitchen incubator is run out of downtown Central Market in York. It provides a hub of business innovation in the city by offering Pennsylvania food businesses affordable kitchen space in the pivotal early stages of their growth. The connection to the market gives tenants an invaluable direct link to the public. 

Credit: Central Market York Instagram. August 2020. Central Market is OPEN! Stop by till 2 PM for coffee, produce, handmade goods or any of our delicious lunch options.

Frenchtown Neighborhood Improvement Association, Tallahassee, Florida (Local Agriculture Market Program) 

Frenchtown Neighborhood Improvement Association is a non-profit dedicated to improving the prospects of Frenchtown residents, in an area that has historically poor food security. The organization’s Frenchtown Farmers Market was aimed at improving the distribution of local produce to the community. 

In 2015, the USDA’s Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program (FMLFPP) awarded the project an injection of $244,682.86 which rose to over $300,000 with local contributions. The funding aimed to improve brand identity for local producers, offer access to commercial kitchen space, provide educational workshops, and grow demand for local food products to increase sales at weekend markets.

In the organizations final performance report for the grant program, the showed significant progress in expanding the number of market events, improving consumer attendance per market event, and recruiting additional vendors, bolstering entrepreneurial activity among local farmers and cottage foods producers. 

In addition, they report creating 4 direct jobs and 75 indirect jobs (vendors), increasing sales 319%, and increasing the number of farmers/producers by 246% over the life of the project. The outcomes of this initial project resulted in the group launching the region’s first commercial kitchen rental facility, KitchenShare. As they put it, “this supports the market vendors in progressing from a cottage food business to a traditional retail food business, supporting business development while dovetailing with our overarching commitment to food entrepreneurship as a strategic path to community equity and enhancement.”


Foothills Farmers Market, Shelby, North Carolina (Local Agriculture Market Program) 

Founded in 2008, Foothills Farmers Market proudly showcases the best produce from the family-owned farms and small businesses of Cleveland County, North Carolina. Selling everything from fruit and veggies, meat and fish, bread and cheeses, honey, nuts, and herbs, all locally grown, the market is a hub for artisanal food in the region.

In 2019, the non-profit organization received a grant of $242,360 to expand and improve its efforts towards the goal of supporting local producers, by repositioning the brand, modernizing the marketing and promotions of the project, and increasing engagement with local groups. The project includes a feasibility study into creating a shared kitchen that would provide a space for local businesses to add value to their products to further boost the local food economy.

 


CitySeed Incubator & Shared Kitchen, New Haven, Connecticut (Local Agriculture Market Program) 

New Haven, Connecticut’s CitySeed Incubator received a grant of $100,000 in 2020 to plan the launch of a shared commercial kitchen focused on helping under-funded entrepreneurs in the local community. The incubator and kitchen work hand-in-hand to provide the physical space as well as the support network for these enterprising chefs to build a sustainable income.

The funding enables them to outline a business model and operation plan, determine physical and technical feasibility of locations, and engage their network of community partners. They recently closed applications for their Food Business Accelerator aimed at removing barriers to food entreprenuership across the state of Connecticut through training, netowrk-building, and access to resources like commercial kitchen space.


Seafood Hub, Delcambre, Louisiana (Local Agriculture Market Program) 

In a bid to promote local fishermen and the Louisiana seafood industry, The Port of Delcambre made a successful bid for a $73,480 LFFP grant to look into creating a Seafood Hub at the port. The commercial shared kitchen space would allow local fishermen space to process their catch, making it easier for them to sell directly to the public. 

It would also act as a demonstration kitchen for cooking classes and provide a hub for product testing and development for the community of producers in the area. It will facilitate packing, storing, and preparing shipments of frozen seafood and other products for retails and online sales.


Elijah’s Promise, New Brunswick, New Jersey (Local Agriculture Market Program) 

For more than 30 years, Elijah’s Promise has been running programs to support the New Jersey food industry. The non-profit received a grant of $293,750 to establish a social enterprise to help local producers add value to their products, in order to differentiate and stand out in the saturated local marketplace. 

The plan is to make the most of underutilized commercial kitchen space to help connect farmers to entrepreneurs who can develop and add value to their ingredients. 


Hana Community Food Assessment Shared Kitchen, Hawaii (Local Agriculture Market Program) 

On the East coast of Maui island in Hawaii, you’ll find a remote rural area known as Hana. The area is subject to food security issues due to its location and the expense of importing food to the island. 

The solution, as the local Ha Ka Hana Ka ‘Ike community organization sees it, is to take advantage of the close-knit community and fertile soils of the area to grow food locally. The group runs a building program, an organic farm, and educational programs to teach young people in the area the necessary skills to take control of their food system. 

The project received $67,592 in USDA funding to see if a farm-to-school program could help to build a self-sustaining food community around the local school’s canteen. Down the road, the initiative hopes to build robust supply chains and infrastructure with plans for a processing facility and shared kitchen anchored in the community. 


Fork Food Lab 2.0, Yarmouth, Maine (Local Agriculture Market Program) 

Fork Food Lab, home to 45 food businesses, is Maine’s largest commercial kitchen and incubator. It’s so successful that it has big plans for expansion to increase capacity. The project was awarded $99,997.82 to upgrade the kitchen in three key areas: 

  • Enable research and development into new areas such as meat, fish, dairy, fermented foods, craft beer, wine, and spirits
  • Give manufacturers access to specialized equipment needed to scale production
  • Provide more manufacturing space for growing businesses 

The Food Fork Lab 2.0 aims to add $1 million in value to local food production, create 246 jobs, and have an economic impact of $15 million by 2025.


Community Crops, Lincoln Nebraska (Local Agriculture Market Program) 

Community Crops is on a mission to get Nebraskans growing and eating local, healthy food. They provide educational courses and resources to people wanting to learn how to grow their own food and run community gardens, workshops, and markets all in aid of boosting the self-sufficiency of the area. 

From one community garden opened in 2003, the movement has grown into a network of growers with 11 community gardens, a training farm, a production greenhouse, a mobile farmers market, and even a storefront.

With a $86,460 grant from the USDA’s program, Community Crops aims to dig into the feasibility of opening Nebraska’s first full-scale commercial kitchen and food business incubator. With the support of its existing network of farms, gardens, and markets, the project will provide space for local food businesses to grow and thrive, adding even more richness to the area’s food ecosystem.


Revolving Kitchen, Dallas, Texas (Local Agriculture Market Program) 

Recognizing a need for commercial kitchen space and a lack of awareness about how to source local ingredients in North Texas, Dallas’ Revolving Kitchen aims to expand its 25-unit community kitchen and food business incubator in order to support more local businesses and strengthen local supply chains.

 A grant of $404,601 was awarded in 2019 with three main goals in mind: 

  • Expand capabilities of the existing shared kitchen space to accommodate 75 businesses
  • Develop an online marketplace for goods produced in the kitchen
  • Implement an educational outreach program to raise awareness about local food production and food safety

The team at Revolving Kitchen envisages the positive impact of the project allowing 60% of tenants to purchase from local food producers and providing education to 480 individuals in North Texas.

Credit: https://revolvingkitchen.com/

Ready Your Proposal for Federal Funding

Last year, $37 million was dished out to local and regional food systems to improve connections between farmers, growers, producers by connecting farmers markets and local consumers. On May 5, 2021, AMS published the Request for Application for the Local Agriculture Market Programs. 

This year, $76.9 million is available through the Farmers Market and Local Food Production Program (FMLFPP), whose recipients include agricultural businesses and cooperatives, Community Supported Agricultural networks and associations, food councils, nonprofit and public benefit corporations, producer networks or associations, and regional farmers market authorities.

The FMLPP is split into two components: 

The Farmers Market Promotion Program 

  • Applies to “projects that develop, coordinate and expand direct producer-to-consumer markets to help increase access to and availability of locally and regionally produced agricultural products by developing, coordinating, expanding, and providing outreach, training, and technical assistance to domestic farmers markets, roadside stands, community-supported agriculture programs, agritourism activities, online sales or other direct producer-to-consumer…market opportunities.”
  •  A 25% match is required.
  • The deadline for submitting applications for the 2021 Request for Applications is June 21, 2021 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern time. 
  • Please refer to the How to Apply page for more information.

The Local Food Promotion Program 

  • Funds “projects that develop, coordinate and expand local and regional food business enterprises that engage as intermediaries in indirect producer to consumer marketing to help increase access to and availability of locally and regionally produced agricultural products. Grants can be used for the planning stages of establishing or expanding a local and regional food business enterprise or to improve or expand a food business that supports locally and regionally produced agricultural products and food system infrastructure by performing feasibility studies, market research, training and technical assistance  for the business enterprise and/or for producers working with the business enterprise.”
  • A 25% match is required.
  • The deadline for submitting applications for the 2021 Request for Applications is June 21, 2021 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern time.
  • Please refer to the How to Apply page for more information.

A further $15.3 million is available from the new Regional Foods System Partnership program (RSFP):

The Regional Foods Systems Partnership program

  • Funds “supports partnerships that connect public and private resources to plan and develop local or regional food systems. The program focuses on strengthening the viability and resilience of regional food economies through collaboration and coordination. In 2020, USDA awarded 23 partnerships in 15 states.”

Although the names are less than catchy, these programs offer a huge opportunity to food businesses and non-profit organizations with plans to help bolster their local food communities. 

To apply for any of these grants, you will need to complete the following steps to:

  1. Apply for a DUNS number
  2. Register with System for Award Management (SAM.gov)
  3. Register with www.grants.gov

Please visit www.grants.gov for additional tools, tips and training on how to apply for a federal grant.

 

Notice: This document is strictly for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice nor create an attorney/client relationship.

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