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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.

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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?

Photo of Thomas

Hello Food Shift,

It blows my mind to think that such a great idea isn’t put into use more than it is. This solution isn’t the answer to everything but it does help cut down on food waste while being equally helpful for our society, environment and economy like the post says. It’s amazing to think that unlike most restaurants once food enters this restaurant it doesn’t go to waste. Food that the customers throw out can simply be composted so essentially there is no waste. Even though it is not related to the subject of wasting food it is key that this idea involves on-the-job training to those who are out of work. Even when someone who is unemployed finds a job it usually requires skills they simply don’t have. One thing that I think would be a good addition is if there is food at the end of the night that is left unsold it should be distributed amongst the employees. Since the DC Central Kitchen is doing very well if the Alameda kitchen just follows its role model it should be just as successful. It seems like you have the backing to complete this project and if you asked around I am sure you would find some willing sponsors to get the plan going. If done correctly I think this could be the start to a chain of restaurants that could financially support themselves and its employees. This could start with just one restaurant but in no time you would find that it would be an example for other restaurants around the world. Even though restaurants are only a percentage of the total food waste it’s a step in the right direction. Not only does Food Shift cut down on food waste it also helps the community.

Respectfully, Thomas

Photo of Evelyn Ihrke

Thomas has me thinking about a restaurant in Toronto, The Depanneur. Every week is a different simple menu of three main choices in each category of entre, side and desert. But the really fun part is when it is an open community experiment: Every week for one night a local Chef builds an amazing (also simple) menu. When we happened on it the Chefs made Turkish food, including a literally mind-blowing combination of lemon and tahini for dessert.

I’m thinking that Food Shift could rev up the local connection with this kind of experiment. The trainees would be encouraged, the Chefs would have a fantastic outlet, and the patrons will love it! Introducing a price-fix on these special nights might be a built in fundraiser.

Photo of Food Shift

Hey Thomas,

Thanks for taking the time to share your insight. It is mind blowing that more social-enterprises that tackle food waste aren't around. 

However, the Alameda Kitchen isn't a restaurant - it's actually an industrial kitchen that produces pre-made food. We are very aware of Robert Egger's work at the DC Central Kitchen. He's one of our board members and has been helping us a lot.

Photo of Nick Gower

Dana & Food Shift work tirelessly to not only reduce food waste (which has huge opportunity for improvement & benefits not only the community but the environment) but to provide employment for underserved communities!

Photo of Food Shift

Thanks Nick!

Photo of Amber Matthews

So is this a community kitchen for upcycling food waste?

Photo of Dana Frasz

Hi Amber,
Thanks for your interest.  You can learn more at our website 
We just graduated our first class yesterday!

Photo of Amber Matthews


Photo of OpenIDEO

Congrats on this being today's Featured Contribution!

Photo of Dana Frasz

Thank you!

Photo of Kenneth Walton

This is a great idea, and we have a place like this here in DC “DC Central Kitchen”, and it does wonderful things.
1. Uses food that would have gone to waste.
2. It trains homeless and ex-offenders how to work in a commercial and then works to find them jobs in local restaurants.

3. Offers team building opportunities to local organizations looking to do community service (There is a 2 or 3 month wait to volunteer your group). Even President Obama and Michelle volunteer here.
4. Provide healthy meals to homeless people (rather than rice and beans which just looks to find something that will stick to your ribs, but offer no health benefit).

5. They now have begun to provide school lunch at the DC Public schools.
 6. Provide summer meals in some communities, where many of the kids are a part of the free meals program at school.

In the end your idea not only solves the problem but could offer, a wealth of other very meaningful services to the community!!
Very Cool Concept

Photo of Dana Frasz

Thank you!  6 years ago while working at Ashoka is when I first volunteered at the DC Central Kitchen.  I was so inspired I reached out to Robert Egger, DCCK Founder.  Since then Robert and his kitchen team has been supporting me and Food Shift in launching this vision in the Bay Area.  Check out this video:

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Welcome to the Refinement phase Food Shift Team! We've added new Refinement questions to your original submission that we'd love for you to answer. Please check out the Refinement Phase Toolkit for instructions on how to answer the new questions and other recommendations we encourage all idea teams to consider in the upcoming weeks.

Refinement Phase Toolkit:

Lastly, here's a useful tip: When you update the content of your post, it'd be helpful to indicate this in your idea title by adding an extension. For example, you can add the extension " - Update: Experience Maps 09/28" to you idea title. This will be a good way to keep people informed about how your idea is progressing!

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Hi team, we updated the link to the Refinement Toolkit. Please use this new link instead:

Photo of Kate Rushton

Congratulations on being one of the forty ideas in the refinement phase. 

Photo of An Old Friend

Great approach

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Great to have you onboard! We noticed your post is currently unpublished. Was this your intention? We'd love to have it be included in the challenge. You can publish it by hitting the "Publish" button at the top of your post. You can also update your post by clicking on the "Edit Contribution" on top. We're looking forward to seeing your contribution in this challenge.