Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Building the infrastructure/support network for food entrepreneurialism

The Toronto Star has a story, "New food market would be on the sly," about the development of an underground food market there, modeled after one in San Francisco ("Renegade San Francisco Underground Market" from the New York Times).

This allows people to sell food they make at home, which isn't legal, because food safety regulations require that food items sold to the public be produced in commercial grade kitchens, under the supervision of a person certified to know food safety procedures.

Given that food-borne illnesses are in fact a significant problem, these kinds of requirements aren't unreasonable, to protect the public health. E.g., I spent my junior high and high school years in Oakland County, Michigan, and a restaurant there, Trini & Carmen's suffered a botulism outbreak from using home prepared products in their kitchen, and people died.

The way to "solve" the problem is to develop more commercial grade community kitchens as a technology so to speak to support food entrepreneurialism. There are many such operations across the county, starting with one of the first modern ones in Athens, Ohio, the Food Manufacturing & Commercial Kitchen Facility, managed by the Appalachian Center for Economic Networks. The organization publishes a how to guide.

But there are many others across the country, in places like San Francisco, New York, Columbus, Ohio, etc.

I have argued for a long time that such operations need to be incorporated into public markets such as Eastern Market in DC (or the Florida Market in DC, which is privately owned), as a way for these types of facilities to become more integrated into regional foodways, food security, and food production networks.

A variant of a community kitchen are the family food preparation franchise operations (called "meal assembly"), such as Let's Dish, which are set up for people to come in and cook a week's worth of food items at one time.

There is no reason that people wanting to participate in an Underground Market couldn't collectively prepare their items in such facilities, which by the way, would likely further their ability to move on up into full-scale businesses, because these facilities usually provide a wide variety of training programs and technical assistance for business development.

Note that the idea of figuring out what type of "infrastructure" exists and a typology for various types of infrastructure has been developed for the cultural field by the Creative City Network of Canada. These concepts need to be extended into other sectors, such as food production.

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