EXCITING NEWS!!: After five years of planning, meeting, networking, and persisting CLiCK has finally purchased a building – 41 Club Rd, Windham CT – the former Knights of Columbus Building! This building is 5,600 sq feet, on 2.9 acres on the Natchaug River and has the possibility of a second floor when funding is available. Construction is beginning on turning half of the building into two commercial kitchen areas available for rent and the other half will be a teaching kitchen and rental space for cultural events such as cooking classes or other classes, such as computers, yoga, ESL..etc. This space will also be available to rent for parties and other social events.. Prices for kitchen rental and other info. to be posted in the next month.
SInce purchasing the building in February CLiCK has planted a 32 tree orchard and ten blueberry bushes all donated by Pride’s Corner.
We have put in wood chip paths and invite the community to come and see the apples, peaches, plums and cherries grown! We have also gotten two bee hives and are in the process of making vegetable boxes and a labyrinth that will be in the back for those seeking a peaceful place.
“Teach a person to fish and they will fish for a day, CLiCK a sustainable food system and we will ALL eat forever!”
CLiCK, Inc (Commercially Licensed Cooperative Kitchen) is a 501c3 non-profit run on co-operative values serving the needs of the local community through its commitment to a just locally based sustainable and healthy food system. CLiCK is located in Windham CT, an area rich with contrasts It contains many small farms, as well as the Town of Windham, which is home to about 20,000 from a wide range of cultural backgrounds. Like many small New England towns Willimantic was once a thriving mill town but since the mills closed in the 1980s, it has struggled to restart its economic engine. However, this is exactly why CLiCK believes Windham is perfect for a commercial kitchen as it is through food that many of the area’s assets and needs can be brought together for the benefit of all.
- Education and training in the culinary arts and nutrition to a diverse demographic in Eastern, Connecticut, an economically distressed area, including both individuals and their communities, to improve their skills, further their entrepreneurial goals and enhance their nutritional health, including a focus to improve the health of under-served populations; and
- Implementation of a sustainable social and economic development model by maintaining a licensed food preparation facility that will support local “farm-to-table” micro-enterprise development, educational opportunities, technical assistance and sustainability.
CLiCK began in 2009 after local residents and members of the Willimantic Food Co-op holding a strong interest in food and sustainability discussed the idea of a shared processing kitchen and ways to better serve farmers in the Windham area. The initial impetus for CLiCK was to provide local farmers a place to process their goods so as to add value to their raw materials. For example, if a local farmer can turn tomatoes marked as seconds into salsa, then this adds greatly to his/her initial investment, while also reducing the carbon footprint of that salsa by having it processed locally.
CLiCK’s funding began with a pilot grant from the Access Community Action Agency as part of their poverty reduction program. As a result, CLiCK expanded its vision to include addressing issues of poverty through many other aspects of food. Therefore, CLiCK’s mission expanded to include serving the needs of small entrepreneur chefs and bakers who will now be able to rent a commercially licensed kitchen enabling them to sell their products legally and grow their businesses. Additionally, CLiCK recognized the need to provide a site for culinary job training, including ServSafe and classes in healthy food preparation, as well as in health and nutrition. With these classes, CLiCK seeks to target underserved populations including low-income seniors, children and youth, new parents, those with food related illness (obesity, diabetes, celiac, high cholesterol…etc) and anyone else who seeks to improve their nutritional and/or culinary knowledge.These classes will be taught by CLiCK members and by our community partners.
Prices for classes will vary (to be posted in the future) but CLiCK’s goal is to serve all who are interested.
CLiCK’s Community Engagement:
Over the past three years CLiCK Board members have been involved in many community events and services. For example, last year CLiCK did outreach at Fiddleheads Co-op Cooperative event, at all of Willimantic’s Third Thursdays, at the Chocolate Festival, and at UCONN’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Cornucopia event. It also organized a Community Outreach Breakfast at the Access Agency. In addition, over the last few years CLiCK has been offering ServSafe classes in both English and Spanish at a discounted rate to ensure that those who want to gain certification have been able to do so. To this end CLiCK also got funding from the Northeastern CT Women and Girl’s Fund to help offset the cost of ServSafe for low income women.
In 2013 the CT Department of Agriculture estimated that only about 1% of food bought in CT is actually grown in the state. Therefore they set a goal to bring this amount up to 5% by 2015. Key to this effort is not just a greater production on the part of CT farmers but also an increase in the number of places where farmers can process their goods or have their goods processed for them. CLiCK is prepared to play a vital part in this CT Department of Agriculture initiative by being the first available processing kitchen in Eastern CT. In addition, in helping to meet this goal, CLiCK see itself as playing a vital role in the shift from a very unsustainable global food system that is socially and environmentally destructive, to one that is just, locally based, sustainable and healthy for all.
Given this commitment, CLiCK is part of the global Food Sovereignty movement that stresses the belief that food and in particular healthy and organically grown food, is a basic human right. CLiCK has been influenced in this view by its initial involvement with the Community Food Security Coalition (which no longer exists) and their former work in helping to grow the food sovereignty movement.
CLiCK is also committed to the global sustainability movement and to this end CLiCK aims to be an example of what is possible in terms of creating a “green kitchen“. To this end CLiCK has been working with ECSU’s Institute for Sustainable Energy to look into getting solar panels and to use its ovens as a source of heat for the building. CLiCK has also been in conversation with UCONN’s Engineers Without Boarders to try and develop a grey water system that will allow it to minimize its use of water.
CLiCK’s primary partner is the Community Economic Development Fund (CEDF). CEDF has supported CLiCK in multiple ways, including financially by matching our mortgage for the building with a $100,000 grant, a $25,000 loan and a $25,000 line of credit. All these funds will be used to make repairs on the building, to further build-out the existing commercial kitchen and to begin purchasing equipment for the processing kitchen. In addition, CEDF will make their financial support, business skills training and business consulting available for future entrepreneurs.
CLiCK is also seeking other forms of funding, in particular from the USDA, as well as from other institutions, foundations and individuals. This anticipated funding will be used to continue the build-out of the commercial and processing kitchens, while also aiming in the long term to take over the building mortgage from our current lender. We also will seek future funding to make classes free for those without the means to pay for them and to be able to better serve CLiCK’s commitment to social justice and equity.
Other social service partners include the Access Community Action Agency, The No Freeze Hospitality Center, The Covent Soup Kitchen, The Windham Harm Reduction Coalition, Generations, WAIM and GROW Windham.
In addition, CLiCK has relationships with the two local universities- Eastern Connecticut State University and UCONN, and the local community college, – Quinebaug Valley. In fact, two of CLiCK’s Board members are UCONN professors (Dr. Phoebe Godfrey and Dr. Hedley Freake) and a number of UCONN students have already completed internships with CLiCK. The plan is to host many more from all the surrounding schools, including Windham High School.
CLiCk has recently gotten an REBG grant from the USDA for $25,000 for the purchase of equipment and to cover some operational costs.
CLiCK’s new building opens up many possibilities for the community to work together to create food related solutions to so many social and economic needs. Some of these ideas may be put into practice by CLiCK, others may be done by community partners using CLiCK’s property. Examples are:
Incubate your own culinary business making items that will be sold locally.
Begin a catering business using CLiCK’s commercial kitchen.
Begin a food truck business using CLiCK’s kitchen as your base.
Start a composting co-operative using CLiCK’s property for the bins
Create a local food basket company that would accept on-line orders and which would be assembled at CLiCK and shipped nationally.
Help make community gardens / orchards run by local youths who will then make products for sale in order to learn valuable gardening, culinary, social and business skills.
The raising of chickens as part of CLiCK’s educational mission in terms of teaching children about food sources and to provide CLiCK’s members with local organic eggs.
Create a farmers’ processing co-operative where fruits and vegetables would be processed into products sold under the co-operative’s label
Help build / install solar panels and a gray water system.
Other ideas? Let us know!
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