After a rocky start, the FEED Kitchens incubator is growing slowly but surely

By Lindsay Christians, The Capital Times

FEED_Kitchen_webIt was a chilly, quiet afternoon at the Food Enterprise and Economic Development (FEED) Kitchens on Madison’s north side.

The morning bakers were gone, having finished frosting and packing away dozens of heart-shaped cookies. A lone food cart still serving pulled pork and collards in the cold had not yet returned from vending downtown.

January is a slow time at FEED, when the farmers’ market has moved inside and many food carts hibernate. But growth has also been slower than expected at the 2-year-old food business incubator.

“Right now, it’s about 20-23 percent capacity for the whole year,” said Chris Brockel, FEED’s operations coordinator and the Kitchens’ newest employee. “The break-even for the facility is somewhere around 35 percent.”

As Lunchable-packing giant Oscar Mayer closes its Madison doors, many see small-scale food entrepreneurs like those at the FEED Kitchens as an essential part of the city’s economic future.

Madison has been ramping up plans for a $14 million public market, set to be built on the east side in the next few years. FEED Kitchens would literally feed the market, supporting small-scale vendors of “value-added” food products like salsa and pickles.

Yet in a city that professes to value locally made sauces, jams and baking mixes, the growth of users in FEED Kitchens has been relatively slow. The original plan for the building didn’t include enough cold storage space. And until recently, outreach had been minimal. Read more …

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