Churches of all denominations do a lot of work within individual communities but they’re often limited by their resources. One church in Bridgeport has done something unique to get past their lack of resources. They’ve added commercial kitchen that allows them to feed thousands of people.
An article titled Bridgeport’s church kitchens hold commercial promise details this interesting program. Brian Lockhart writes, “Is this a house of worship or the set of television’s “Top Chef”? That might be the reaction to visiting the basement of United Congregational Church. Beneath the religious landmark at Park Avenue and State Street is an 800-square-foot, restaurant-quality kitchen with spacious metal counters, deep sinks, a large stove and a walk-in refrigerator and freezer. The room could easily be the studio of a cooking show. And for the past few years it has allowed United to expand its soup kitchen and food pantry to serve 8,700 hot meals and 90,000 meals’ worth of groceries a year. “We were blessed enough to turn our kitchen from a regular old kitchen into a commercial kitchen,” said the Rev. Sara Smith. Smith is part of a group seeking the blessing of zoning officials to do even more in that space.
The Council of Churches of Greater Bridgeport has proposed amending zoning regulations so houses of worship, beginning with United, could lease large kitchen facilities to small, food-based local businesses for limited commercial use. Smith chairs the council’s board.
Put simply, when United’s kitchen is not in use for church culinary activities, the space could be rented at a reasonable rate to entrepreneurs with 10 or fewer employees who need it to mass produce their cuisine. “This space is meant to be an incubator and encourage grown and developing small business,” said Michelle Lapine McCabe, the council’s director of community engagement and food access. “It’s meant to be a starting point.”
Although lease rates are still being developed, the goal is to offer prices that are roughly half of the market rate — $25 to $30 per hour, McCabe and her colleagues said, is routinely charged to rent kitchens.”
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