Preserving Hope: Harvest Kitchen Expands Its Reach
If you’re a Rhody native, you’ve probably heard of Farm Fresh Rhode Island, a local food non-profit that connects growers to farmers’ markets and consumers. What you might not know about Farm Fresh RI is that the organization sponsors a variety of programs to improve nutrition and community well-being: one of these is Harvest Kitchen, a 20-week job training program for at-risk youth that provides participants with the necessary skills to enter the culinary industry. Harvest Kitchen’s mission is simple but the results are what program director Jennifer Stott calls “life-changing”. The program’s students work in a commercial kitchen for 15 weeks, preparing preserved foods such as applesauce, pickles and sauces. After this portion of the program, students engage in an internship with a restaurant or food-service provider in the Providence, Pawtucket, or Central Falls area.
July 2016, marked a pivotal time for the Harvest Kitchen program, as they opened their own space that includes a newly outfitted industrial kitchen for the youth program, as well as a retail storefront and seasonal cafe. The new home for Harvest Kitchen is located at 2 Bayley Street in Pawtucket. The building was developed by Pawtucket Central Falls Development Corporation, which rehabilitated the new building so that it could become a mixed-used space.
The new space for Harvest Kitchen means exciting opportunities for the program. For one, the retail space will offer more job and training opportunities for participants. Second, the retail space aims to give residents in downtown Pawtucket better access to nutritious food—the organization hopes to achieve this by accepting SNAP and other food benefit programs. Additionally, the front space is equipped with a demo kitchen that will be used for local growers to highlight their produce and by chefs to create pop-up meals, hold community cooking classes that emphasize healthy eating, and host small fundraising events.
Jennifer Stott, the woman behind the magic of this program, says about the new space, “We were lucky to get in right at the beginning and design the space based on our vision... It’s great that Pawtucket Central Falls Development allowed us to do this.”
While the production kitchen at Bayley Street opens this week, more headway is yet to be made before the storefront and demo kitchen will be up and running. The opening for those parts of the building dedicated to community outreach is slated for the fall, but Harvest Kitchen, a non-profit organization, can’t achieve this project alone.
Learn more about the program and how you can make an impact: https://www.crowdrise.com/Harvest-Kitchen.