Opening Community Facilities to Food Entrepreneurs

Communities are increasingly looking to tap the potential of existing, underutilized kitchens to support new food businesses and farmers that need affordable, licensed kitchen rentals to test and grow their food concepts. A new guide, Opening Community Facilities to Food Entrepreneurs: Guidance for Communities and Facility Operators provides practical tips for organizations and stakeholders looking to evaluate kitchen rental opportunities in community-serving buildings.

Kitchens in community centers, religious buildings, event venues, granges, educational facilities, and service clubs can play a valuable role in fostering entrepreneurship in local food economies. Leveraging underutilized kitchens can be a cost-effective way to expand kitchen access, particularly in areas that lack demand or resources for a shared commercial kitchen or kitchen incubator. Renting idle kitchen time can also generate revenue to support facilities and their community programs.

Making the leap into hourly kitchen rentals can be challenging for organizations that are unfamiliar with the food industry. These nonprofit and public organizations often play many roles in their communities and host a wide array of activities such as meal programs, weddings, emergency shelters, and community gatherings. As a result they weigh rental compatibility, management capacity, and return on investment differently than organizations whose primary mission is to serve entrepreneurs or farmers. 

Opening Community Facilities was created to fill the gap in guidance for these potential food systems partners. The publication helps facility managers understand what entrepreneurs are looking for and what it takes to rent a kitchen. It outlines five key steps to getting started and describes common management approaches. Importantly, it also explains the benefits of supporting food entrepreneurs and features organizations that approach kitchen rentals as a community service.

This new resource also aims to support food systems and community development leaders in their efforts to expand kitchen access. It discusses the benefits and limitations of community facilities compared to kitchens designed to serve entrepreneurs and offers practical kitchen outreach and support strategies. It also profiles emerging Kitchen Connect programs that are networking kitchens in innovative, efficient ways to support small food businesses.

Opening Community Facilities to Food Entrepreneurs: Guidance for Communities and Facility Operators is a free digital resource produced by Purdue University Extension and Fruition Planning & Management with funding from USDA North Central SARE.

Please help spread the word about this free resource! And join the FSLN Program Innovations Discussion Group to share your experiences and ask questions about partnering with existing kitchens in your community.