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The LEAP Community Kitchen will support food entrepreneurs, increase food access, and house community programs related to cooking, health, and nutrition. By serving as a business incubator, the Kitchen will support the development of new food businesses and create a stronger local food system in the region. In partnership with the West End Center and Freedom First Credit Union, the LEAP Community Kitchen will be built inside the same building as the Freedom First Credit Union branch in West End (1210 Patterson Ave). Joy Parrish, Executive Director of the West End Center, stated that the Kitchen “will offer additional opportunities for both economic empowerment and increased access to healthy food for the West End neighborhood.”
In addition to the physical commercial kitchen space, the LEAP Community Kitchen, in partnership with other community organizations, will provide resources to help food businesses succeed.
“Our approach to partnerships is always to leverage the strengths of each partner rather than duplicating efforts,” says Dave Prosser, Freedom First’s senior vice president of Community Development. “Together with West End Center and LEAP, we create an environment that fosters healthy approaches to finance, education, and nutrition –all of which are necessary for independence and good health.”
According to Maureen Best, executive director, LEAP, “We also want to focus on supporting non-traditional entrepreneurs, particularly from low-income and immigrant communities; people who may have great ideas but need additional resources to make them a reality.”
In October 2014, LEAP was awarded a $25,000 planning grant by the USDA Local Food Promotion Program, part of the Agricultural Marketing Service, to complete the design and further develop an operational and business plan for the Kitchen. Funding from the Roanoke Women’s Foundation will be used to cover construction costs for the LEAP Community Kitchen and some commercial kitchen equipment.
LEAP for Local Food works to nurture healthier communities by building more resilient local food systems. For more information about LEAP, please call Brittany DeKnight at 540-427-7281.