On Tuesday, April 26, LEAP for Local Food held a ribbon cutting for their new commercial kitchen, co-located with one of Freedom First’s branches in a Roanoke neighborhood defined by economic struggle and corporate disinvestment. Three years after the ground breaking for the 3,000 square foot building that houses our full-service branch, a meeting room, and a covered outdoor famers’ market, the Kitchen was the final occupant to fulfill the vision of spurring revitalization of the West End neighborhood.
Before opening the West End branch, Freedom First already served residents through partnerships with community service agencies. The branch location was strategically chosen on the grounds of the West End Center for Youth, a hub of day and summer programs, which is convenient to a bus line and around the corner from a small retail and service business district. Offering meeting space and a farmers’ market exposed more local residents to the banking services. Now with LEAP’s Kitchen, business owners will have convenient access to responsible and affordable banking services.
The Kitchen is a unique resource in the Roanoke Valley, providing culinary start-ups and expanding businesses access to professional grade equipment that facilitates large batch production for retail and wholesale. Complementing the commercial kitchen, LEAP is also partnering with other community organizations to establish a business incubator and resource hub for culinary entrepreneurs. Participants in the incubator program will learn how to bring a food product idea to the commercial market, as well as have access to a network of experienced, successful industry leaders that will provide guidance and services.
“In addition to offering financial education programs for the entrepreneurs, Freedom First will be providing small, affordable commercial loans to help them get their businesses going,” stated Dave Prosser, Senior Vice President of Community Development for Freedom First Credit Union. “We are proud to continue to play a role in the revitalization of Roanoke’s West End neighborhood, and to help spur small business growth.”
More information about LEAP for Local Food and their Kitchen can be found on their website at http://leapforlocalfood.org/kitchen/.