A Game-Changer for Women- and Minority-Owned Businesses
Greater Frenchtown’s Marketplace & Heritage Hub is a blighted community’s answer to the pressing issues of food access and economic opportunity. The site is being developed through public-private partnership as an anchor for revitalization in the Frenchtown community, Tallahassee’s oldest neighborhood, historically significant for its role in Black education during segregation and activist leadership during the Civil Rights Movement, as well as Black-owned commerce, agriculture, and artistic expression. Now a federally-designated food desert, with substantial health disparities and high unemployment, Frenchtown is harnessing the local food movement as a catalyst for change and reclamation of the neighborhood’s vital heritage.
Frenchtown Neighborhood Improvement Association, with a broad network of partner agencies, launched a farmers market that accepts SNAP-EBT and doubles the benefit for the purchase of fresh produce through a match program called Fresh Access Bucks. With low vendor fees that include equipment and sales promotions, the market also serves as a low-barrier platform for economic entry, both for farmers and for cottage food producers. Over 80% of vendors are from the Frenchtown neighborhood or its sister community on the city’s Southside.
The KitchenShare program is a natural progression of the Frenchtown Farmers Market @ Heritage Hub, recently expanded through Farmers Market Promotion Program funding. The market expansion project launched in a new location in 2016 that will also house KitchenShare. Infrastructure is in place and interior renovations are underway. The two programs are independent; however, KitchenShare would advance the economic opportunity that the farmers market invites by scaffolding the next steps to commercial production and distribution. The years-long development of the farmers market has also produced a network of local farmers and value-added vendors who are eager to make use of a commercial kitchen rental facility with processing and packaging capacity.
These small farmers and food-based microenterprises, most of whom represent disadvantaged populations, require substantial support, training and affordable access to services in order to craft and conduct a successful commercial operation. In addition to affordable facilities access, KitchenShare would provide training in equipment operation, food safety, and product development. The commercial kitchen has been outfitted with a wide Array of equipment to encourage production variety, and up to three stations available for simultaneous operation.