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Food Shift presents: The Alameda Kitchen! So food is not wasted, people are fed, and jobs are created.

A kitchen that transforms lives and food by making and distributing nutritious products out of otherwise wasted food.

Photo of Food Shift
20 13

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If the problem of food waste is social, environmental, and economic, so is the solution.

The Alameda Kitchen, a project of Food Shift, is a social enterprise model aimed at creating a sustainable, community empowering, holistic solution to wasted food. Inside the kitchen, rescued foods are converted into nutritious meals by disadvantaged, formerly homeless community members who face significant barriers to employment. Enrollment in our on-the-job culinary training program will help to highlight the capacity and strength of each participant - all while keeping healthy, nutritious foods from entering landfills and redistributed to the community.

While receiving culinary training from Food Shift’s Production Chef, kitchen trainees earn wages and transform surplus, otherwise wasted, produce into an array of delicious soups and sides. During this first phase, most of the food has been donated to City Team, a group that feeds food insecure populations in Oakland.  While maintaining our commitment to redistributing quality food to food insecure populations, in the next phase of the kitchen we would like to develop a revenue generation strategy that allows us to sustain the program financially.   

The Alameda Kitchen project operates out of Alameda Point Collaborative (APC), a supportive housing community working to end the cycle of poverty for formerly homeless individuals. On-the-job trainees for the Alameda Kitchen are recruited exclusively from APC’s community of residents, who can walk or take a short bus ride to work. While employed through our program, participants take courses in career-readiness and receive assistance after graduation in taking further steps towards sustainable self-care, employment, education, or volunteer work.

Original inspiration for the Alameda Kitchen came directly from Robert Egger’s DC Central Kitchen, a social enterprise combating hunger with recycled food while providing culinary training for out-of-work individuals. Since 1989, the Kitchen (which is a $11 million a year, self-sustaining, social enterprise) has produced over 30 million meals and helped 1,500 men and women gain full time employment.  This model is powerful - transforming both lives and food - and Food Shift is supported closely by Robert Egger and his team.  With the right partners and funding we can bring the power of this model to the Bay Area.

This model is a catalyst for nutrition and good health, embraces social enterprise, moves beyond charity to provide jobs, and replicates what's working.  The Alameda Kitchen is a realistic strategy that embraces the potential of food to be used as a tool to empower people and strengthen communities. This is a way that we can do more than just feeding people through a soup kitchen by also “feeding” them through skill building, employment and opportunity. Rather than spending more resources on waste disposal or expanding our food banks, we need to explore, invest in and replicate innovative models that are creating opportunity and developing more healthy communities.

Join us in scaling and supporting this powerful in the Bay Area!

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

Since June we have: tested our recipes and production methods; hosted community meals; donated to local agencies; and trained 4 individuals. In our next phase we will explore revenue generating opportunities with our products. We have several potential clients (SPUR, Ideo, Clif Bar, HUB, Kaiser) lined up and are exploring selling our products on the Josephine platform. We envision providing soups and sides for big events, cafeterias or catering operations.

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

How can we add on a revenue-generating component to the kitchen without over-burdening our limited supply of capital and personnel? What's the simplest way to sell product without getting entangled into a sea of permitting restrictions? We could really use IDEO's help in thinking through the scaling strategy and thinking through the revenue generation component.

Tell us about your work experience:

Food Shift works collaboratively with communities, businesses, and governments to develop long-term sustainable solutions to reduce food waste and build more resilient communities. We believe thousands of people can be employed in the recovery, redistribution and processing of excess food. By reducing food waste, we can feed the hungry, create jobs, combat climate change and cultivate more sustainable communities.

This idea emerged from

  • A group brainstorm

How far along is your idea?

  • It was in the works before this challenge – it’s existed for 2-6 months

Who needs to play a role in your idea in order to make it successful?

Our Alameda Kitchen is an incredibly collaborative project. We already have strong, reliable relationships with many of our partners and will continue to build on them in the future. One area that we need to expand into in the next phase of the kitchen are building relationship with food banks, shelters and other orgs who would like to accept our donated food. We want the experience of donating to the community to be rewarding for our on-the-job trainees.

How do you plan to measure the impact of your idea?

Our impact is measured firstly in how many pounds of produce we rescue and convert into delicious meals. We also care about the experience we give our OJTs. Food can be a vehicle to realize one's capacity to contribute to the community, and thus ones value within a community.

What are your immediate next steps after the challenge?

Our immediate next step is evaluation of our first class of Alameda Kitchen graduates. We conducted exit interviews with the graduates during their last week and will keep track of their progress finding jobs as they leave the kitchen. We will also enter into further discussion with our partners to understand how they would like to see the Alameda Kitchen grow. We'll be posting our findings as they arise on our website.

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Join the conversation:

Photo of Chris Eberhardt

I'm really curious to see how this project develops and I think that it speaks to the needs of many communities in ways most of the other proposals do not. My bias is that I'm seeing food waste and I'm also seeing people in many communities that do not have the luxury of time and/or money to eat healthy meals (although looking at demographics of Alameda this seems to be less the case).

In terms of revenue I would suggest:
- some sort of annual membership model for consumer meals mimicking in some ways the CSA model, ie. you are getting healthy produce on a schedule, but you may not always know what exactly
- paid cooking classes

If you employed a membership model I hope you would offer a membership level where members can choose what to pay. There are the visible hungry on the streets, in shelters and there are the invisible hungry that have white collar jobs that could benefit greatly from your meals.

Three other suggestions:
- Make the food taste as good as you can, and as every restaurant knows, make it consistently (key) good. From my own academic research and professional experience I would add that the product quality (in this case meals) matters. Whether its China or the United States, no matter how much people say they will choose the more socially conscious product, product quality and meeting consumer's needs wins out the majority of the time.
- Foster and develop a two-way conversation between the Alameda Kitchen and your customers via social media and other means, food can be a basis for celebration and shared humanity even when meals are prepackaged.
- Check out God's Love We Deliver in NY, or other similar kitchens that have non-traditional staff to see how the permitting challenges have been overcome.

Photo of Food Shift

Hey Chris,

Thanks for your thoughtful input! It means a lot to us. We hadn't even considered doing a paid cooking class. That's a really interesting idea that we'll put into our mixing pot as we move forward.

We agree - the quality of our food is the most important thing to get people to eat it!

Thanks for your tip about God's Love We Deliver in NY. We're always looking for organizations doing similar things to us that we can learn from.

Photo of Chris Eberhardt

Food Shift What is the current status?

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