Channel One Food Bank has a commercial kitchen. That kitchen, the Community Kitchen, was originally developed in partnership with Leadership Greater Rochester class of 2013 to host food education courses. However, those courses were put on hold during the pandemic. About a year ago, that all changed. Jessica Sund, director of development and communications at Channel One and a Rochester native had an “aha” moment.
Jessica explains, “Food education courses were becoming less popular for a variety of reasons but especially after we put a halt on in-person courses as a result of the pandemic. After that, we essentially had this amazing space that was sitting empty, and we knew there had to be a better use for it. Supporting local businesses and nonprofits by reimagining it as a community space really seemed like the best option. It’s something that our local nonprofit partners had been asking about for a while, but it wasn’t until we started looking into existing resources that we noticed the astonishing lack of accessibility in our community.”
She realized that there was a significant need in our community for commercial kitchen space, and Channel One had a space that could meet that need with a few modifications. Since the kitchen was originally set up as a teaching kitchen, she consulted with some local chefs and made some modifications, including adding a six-burner range, more refrigeration and more countertop spaces. The commercial Community Kitchen at Channel One was born.
Who uses the kitchen?
The first renters of the kitchen were the Ethiopian Community of Rochester. They were hosting an Ethiopian Festival and needed a space for their community members to prepare the food that would be served there. Initially, Channel One didn’t advertise the space, worried about high demand before they were ready to manage that demand. Word of mouth about the kitchen and opportunities mostly for budding food entrepreneurs to utilize the space increased. Ultimately the Rochester Downtown Alliance and Tiffany Alexandria, founder of the Night Market, learned about the space and began sharing the resource with potential vendors. Currently eight businesses utilize the space in an ongoing capacity, with many more intermittently.
Dao See, a vendor who used the commercial kitchen for the Night Market, was excited at the opportunity to use Channel One’s newly renovated space. “Channel One has helped my business tremendously because I’m able to use the commercial kitchen to cook and sell my egg rolls and turkey legs to the public at the Night Market. I’m so thankful for Channel One for supporting a small business like mine and others. I only do the Night Market once a year to sell my products because the Night Market reminds me of my country, Thailand. The Night Market is very popular in Thailand.”
See’s family was directly impacted by Channel One’s work. She shares, “When we first came to America in 1994, as immigrant refugees, Channel One was there to provide food to our family and other families as well. Our family did not speak English. My parents were not able to work due to language barrier, so we didn’t have money to buy food. Channel One was a lifesaver for us and many others! HUGE thank you to Channel One for helping me, my family and continuously serving the community.”
Want to utilize the space?
Channel One rents the kitchen space for $25 per hour to reduce barriers for people wanting to enter into the food business. While each business does need to get their own licensing and permits, Channel One makes sure the space is affordable and accessible. Visit Channel One’s website for more information: helpingfeedpeople.org/partners/kitchen. ::
More about Channel One
Channel One Regional Food Bank, a member of Feeding America, strengthens food access and builds healthy communities. Channel One operates food programs to serve local and area needs such as: a food bank, a food shelf, mobile pantries, Childhood Hunger Programs and the Commodity Supplemental Food Program. Channel One Regional Food Bank mobilizes organizations, volunteers and donors to serve the network of nearly 200 nonprofit programs that provide food for children, adults, and families in need. Channel One serves 14 counties across southeastern Minnesota and western Wisconsin.