In order to keep locally grown food in the communities that produced them as well as open up new markets for producers to ensure their economic viability, it is critical to have food processing and distribution infrastructure available to producers of all sizes in all corners of the state. Food storage, butchering, preparation, and packaging are all necessary to enable producers to develop value-added products and to sell them in local, regional, and statewide markets.
LiveWell Colorado has a number of reports relevant to community food processing. See the Food Policy Blueprint.
For strategies on how to make every kitchen a community kitchen in rural and small communities, see page 15 of the Guide to Integrating Healthy Eating and Active Living into Colorado’s Rural and Small Town Communities.
For strategies on how to review regulatory impediments to urban agriculture in suburban and urban communities, see page 13 of the Guide to Integrating Healthy Eating and Active Living into Colorado’s Suburban and Urban Communities.
Community and Commercial Kitchens
Community and commercial kitchens provide facilities where gardeners and producers from small farms can clean and minimally process their produce. Currently, communities are developing shared-use agreements with pre-existing kitchens such as in schools, nursing homes, recreation centers, and restaurants. In the long-term, larger facilities devoted to processing are needed to handle locally produced food, particularly meat.
Food hubs take a variety of forms. In general, they are organizations that provide multiple services to producers along the path from farm to table. Often they are all-encompassing, providing food storage, processing, distribution and marketing. By drawing producers together, food hubs provide a simplified market stream and an economy of scale for a region’s small-scale food producers, and allow them to tap into wholesale and institutional markets.
How Colorado communities and schools are partnering to support rural food access
In Gunnison and Alamosa, schools and community members are supporting food access and nutrition by working hand-in-hand to help residents improve their own health through shared use of school kitchens. These rural school districts have exemplary shared use kitchen policies that are helping to make healthy food more accessible. Gunnison has well developed guidelines, fee schedules, and rules addressing the use of school kitchens. For more information click here. Alamosa’s Board policies specifically address kitchen and cafeteria use, policies, fee schedules and the application process. For more information click here.
Models: Programs & Projects
LoCo Food Distribution of Colorado creates connections between producers and wholesale purchases, delivering locally grown and locally processed foods to restaurants, grocery stores, caterers and institutions.
CornUcopia Place in Cleveland, OH is a multi-purpose space with a café and market selling healthy foods, a teaching kitchen providing nutrition and cooking classes, a harvest preparation station used by local market gardeners, and an on-site orchard.
Open for Business, a report published by Empire State Development, provides details on the Consolidated Funding Application; a simple application process developed for food hubs in any state in the region seeking government funding.
County Commissioners Approve Changes to Agricultural Uses in Land Use Code is a press release from Boulder County highlighting changes made to land use codes that promote residential-scale agriculture, expand the opportunities for market farmers to connect with their customers, and allow small-scale processing on farms.
Detroit Kitchen Connect helps local residents, most of them women of color, transform their ideas and passions into scalable businesses by providing commercial kitchen rentals at sliding-scale rates, and guidance in the nuts and bolts of launching and growing a company.
Reports: Research, Articles & Guides
Sharing Schools: Community Use of School Kitchens and Sharing Schools: Community Use of School Recreation Facilities are toolkits developed by the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment that outline the benefits, policy considerations and operational needs for implementing a shared-use program.
Frozen Local: Strategies for Freezing Locally Grown Produce for the K-12 Marketplace, a report published by The Institute of Agriculture and Trade Policy, discusses the benefits of freezing local fruits and vegetables to support Farm to School programs year-round.
Tools & Technical Assistance
The Business Incubator Center in Grand Junction provides resources for new and existing small businesses including a commercial kitchen, free or low cost counseling, workshops and classes, small business financing, and more.
“Developing a Safe Food Business”, an online certificate course developed by CSU, is designed to help vendors selling foods created in their home directly to the consumer navigate the many government regulations and requirements involved.
The Colorado Department of Agriculture’s Food Processing section provides links to support systems, training programs, and tools for food processing in Colorado.
Colorado MarketMaker offers an interactive mapping system that locates businesses and markets of agricultural products in Colorado, linking producers and consumers.
The Colorado Farm to Market website was developed to familiarize those selling fresh foods in diret markets with federal, state and local food licensing regulations to help ensure food safety.
Real Food Colorado develops and supports infrastructure to assist the growth of local independent food systems through local food hubs and connecting partners.
The Rocky Mountain Farmers Union Cooperative Development Center provides technical assistance and funding to rural groups to create marketing, processing, or service cooperatives.
The Small Scale Food Processor Association is a community food processing organization providing leadership, education, marketing, networking and advocacy for processors supporting local food.
The USDA Farmers Markets and Local Food Marketing section provides information and links to the USDA’s Food Hub Resource Guide, relevant research, and other helpful financial and business development resources.
National Good Food Network connects partners to assist in the creation of food hubs and provides numerous resources to support food hubs.
The Food Safety Website launched by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition is intended to help farmers, processors, and other stakeholders understand food safety rules, learn about potential issues, and speak out about proposed legislation.