Reinventing the Neighborhood Kitchen
A Letter to FEAST Supporters, January 2012
The FEAST team extends hearty gratitude to the many people in our community who have joined with us in reinventing how neighborhood kitchens can change the way we grow, prepare, and eat healthy food in our city.
Our First Season
During our first season, we partnered 56 families to support Chef Martha Stamps in creating a new menu each week of meals with specific ingredient standards and with a high percentage of locally-grown foods. We watched in amazement how the purchasing power of just those 56 families shifted thousands of dollars into local farms right here in our own community. We were encouraged by the many comments we received as to how helpful partnering with a chef was to busy families.
Our Next Season
Over the winter holiday, our team interviewed members through a survey and developed a strategic plan that balances key values. We would like to share with our community the values driving the strategy we are using to build a network of neighborhood kitchens in Tennessee.
A Meal Delivery Service or Neighborhood Kitchens?
Developing an urban, local-food delivery service with a variety of featured chefs is a very appealing concept. However, our research led us to the conclusion that (1) truly sustainable packaging for a large scale customer base does not yet exist, (2) the infrastructure to deliver perishable food safely and conveniently was too costly, and (3) the concept moved us farther away from a small-scale community solution.
Instead, we have chosen to focus on developing neighborhood collaborative kitchens throughout Nashville and the surrounding area. Each kitchen will be unique with chefs, menus, products, classes, and such that are tailored to the people who support that kitchen. Each kitchen will prepare food according to FEAST standards and will focus on reviving nourishing traditional foods and beverages while investing heavily in the urban and local farms. Many of the kitchens will invite volunteers and interns to cook alongside the chefs - bringing labor costs down for everyone and increasing the professional educational environment. Members will meet their chefs regularly and be invited to cooking classes and community feasts.
Most members will pick up at their neighborhood kitchen. Some people will form driving co-ops to get food from a kitchen in another neighborhood that meets their needs best. Others will pay extra for concierge, hassle-free delivery service.
The Reason for Micro-Investing as a Member
We are currently adopting principles from Slow Money and the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) movement to shape how we fund each kitchen. Rather than relying on banks outside our community, we seek micro-investors who are also our customers and members—micro-investing in their neighborhood kitchen in return for specific benefits.
Just as the structure of a CSA gives financial security to farmers, separating the ingredient and labor costs gives FEAST Chefs the security of knowing their labor and overhead costs will be covered, regardless of food sales. Members save, too, since the weekly prices for food items are based on ingredient cost without an extra markup. This means members can affordably order extra items when special occasions arrise.
We value transparency, and the FEAST pricing structure allows you to know exactly what is going to your chef and what is going to your farmer. This keeps costs down for everyone, allows our Chefs to focus on cooking, reduces food waste, and encourages our members to try everything on the menu!
Affordable, Healthy Food
FEAST Together works to make local, healthy food more available and more accessible. Both the busy parents who may not have time to go to their local farmer's market, and our hard-working neighbors who may not currently participate in what is still considered the "luxury" of local food, should have access to the season's bounty. We have four avenues for opening the doors.
- An investing membership with one of our chefs. By joining together, our members lower the barriers of time and cost.
- A working membership which allows for credit in exchange for committed volunteer hours.
- Subsidized membership which provides a free membership to applicants.
- Social justice achievements through strategic partnerships. For instance, CK East Nashville gets to provide high-quality meals to formerly homeless families 3 times a day instead of paying a traditional rent for the kitchen.
Are There Others Like FEAST Together?
We have been very inspired and influenced by the work of "Community Supported Kitchens" throughout our country (see a list on our Partners page). They strive to use the best local ingredients and prepare premium products for their community. Yet we have only found two that are incorporating creative ways to make the food more affordable. FEAST Together is the first one operating as a nonprofit and offering our unique membership structure. Will you help us continue to create nourishing, neighborhood kitchens around the country? Join us!